GLENDALE, Ariz. — Tyrann Mathieu is still not cleared to practice along with his team.
However, the defensive back took another step forward Friday — literally — while the Arizona Cardinals took part in their annual pre-training camp conditioning test.
Working out on the side along with teammate Alameda Ta’amu, Mathieu stretched, jogged and ran, showing nary a sign that he suffered a devastating knee injury just more than seven months ago.
In fact, it looked like he was running faster than some of his healthier teammates, which pleased Mathieu.
“It’s always a competition, but I’ve got to listen to my trainer; I’ve got to slow down at times,” Mathieu said with a smile. “But it felt good to be out there.”
Mathieu’s recovery is one of the more important storylines as the Cardinals begin training camp in year two of the Bruce Arians era. He burst onto the scene last year as a third-round pick, as the former LSU star with a checkered past quickly emerged as a playmaker on one of the league’s best defenses.
Though his season was cut short after just 13 games, Mathieu still finished with 68 total tackles, two interceptions, one sack, one forced fumble and nine passes defended.
No doubt the Cardinals would like to get him back on the field as soon as possible, but when will that be? When asked, Mathieu joked that he could “play tomorrow” if it was up to him.
More realistically, Mathieu said it looks like he’s at least a month away, maybe even two. That would put him back on the field around the team’s Week 4 bye, meaning he may only miss three games.
“They both ran, they ran well,” Arians said of Mathieu and Ta’amu. “It’s a matter of getting in football shape and not pushing them too fast. They’re too good of young players to push too fast.”
That seems to be the theme, at least in terms of Mathieu. The 22-year-old joked that he could have run even faster than he did Friday but “didn’t want to come in here trying to steal the show.”
“I saw B.A. looking at me so I was kind of slowing down, not running as fast,” he said.
Mathieu, who said he’s certainly increased the amount of work he can do over time, added he can do quick cuts right now, but not nearly as well as he can run in a straight line.
That understanding is important, because Mathieu himself said it’s sometimes difficult not to go too hard too fast. That’s where the training staff comes in, which the player said is quite helpful.
“I think just for so long I’ve always told myself to give it 100 (percent) and just go hard no matter what, so I’ve just got to take those guys’ thoughts into consideration sometimes and just chill out.”
It’s all part of the recovery process, and while he’s not happy sitting on the sideline while his teammates are on the field playing, Mathieu says until he’s ready to come back his goal is simply to rehab and be as good a teammate as he can be.
But he can see the finish line, and that makes this all easier.
“It’s motivating,” he said. “All I can do is keep preparing like I’m about to practice tomorrow, so hopefully when I do get cleared I’ll be ready to go with no setbacks.”