Dealing Cards: Tyrann Mathieu understands challenge he faces

Oct 12, 2016, 5:19 PM

Arizona Cardinals free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) during an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay...

Arizona Cardinals free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) during an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

TEMPE, Ariz. — In last Thursday’s 33-21 Cardinals win over the San Francisco 49ers, safety Tyrann Mathieu made his return to the slot and finished with three tackles along with one pass defensed.

He was also beat for a touchdown and flagged for a penalty that led to another, and after the game, Mathieu said his game was “kind of sloppy.”

On Wednesday, after a short break and with time to really digest what transpired, his evaluation did not change.

“Like I told you guys after the game, I felt sloppy in coverage at times,” he said. “That, really, was the jist of it. I felt overall, as a defense, we played pretty well. But me, individually, obviously I could have played better.”

Mathieu’s move back to the slot was going to happen at some point, though it may have come a bit sooner than anticipated. Once the Cardinals had to place safety Tyvon Branch on injured reserve with a groin injury, they figured the best way to compensate was to have Mathieu return to the role he was so effective in last season.

The fourth-year pro anticipates improvement going forward. He said he felt he moved around better Wednesday, after five days off, than he has this season, though he is really looking forward to Monday night’s matchup with the Jets to see what exactly the extra rest does for him.

It should help, and Mathieu understands that while he would like to have already returned to form, truly recovering from a knee injury like the one he suffered last season takes time.

“Maybe Week 9 or 10, I felt like I was getting into a groove, and then obviously I broke my thumb, had to sit out a couple of games,” he said of when he felt he was back in 2014, after his first major knee injury. “I feel like this time I’ll hit my stride way quicker, much faster.”

At this point, he says the only thing he needs is reps.

“It’s a physical thing,” he said. “Mentally I feel fine; I’ve had a few lapses over the course of the last five weeks, but I think it’s all physical — just lining up in front of somebody, having to play man-to-man, having to just cover guys. It’s going to be a challenge for me, but it’s something I can do.”

Injury update

Since the official injury report will not come out until Thursday, technically head coach Bruce Arians was not required to divulge any information on his ailing players. He did, however, say that defensive lineman Josh Mauro practiced on Wednesday and they are hopeful that tight end Darren Fells will be back Thursday.

Kevin Minter is cool

Linebacker Kevin Minter, late in Thursday’s win over the 49ers, tracked QB Blaine Gabbert down and brought him down for a sack. The linebacker was a bit slow to get up, and was then put into the league’s concussion protocol.

Along with QB Carson Palmer, Minter was cleared to return to the team on Tuesday, and then went through practice Wednesday.

“I’m feeling good,” Minter said. “Back and level-headed, I guess. I’m feeling good. I’m feeling 100 percent. Not cloudy no more. I’m cool.”

Minter said it was his first concussion, and that itself made him a little nervous. He said he did well in his tests and was pretty much back to normal a couple hours after the game, but at least for a brief period of time, he was concerned.

“I was like, ‘man, what the hell is wrong with me,'” he said of his immediate reaction. “But nah, I’m cool, though.”

In case of emergency, sign Kerwynn

It’s fair to say Kerwynn Williams is on the roster bubble. Some days, he is on the team. Some days, he is not.

Wednesday was a day where he was on the team, as the Cardinals re-signed the running back on Tuesday after releasing him before last week’s game against the 49ers. Before that, he had just re-joined the Cardinals on Oct. 4 after being part of the final roster cuts on Sept. 3.

What a life.

“You know you can’t do anything to control it, so you just have to have the same mindset every day,” Williams said. “And just come in with a good attitude. You can’t control any of that — any of those decisions. You just concentrate on what you can control, that’s what I always say.”

Arians understands the plight of players like Williams, who are at the bottom of a fluid roster.

“You count your blessings when you’re here,” he said, before noting how sometimes good players have to be let go. “It’s hard to have to do that, especially when injuries — not performance — if you have to move a guy off the roster because of injuries just to replace someone else, and you did a great job, that’s real hard.”

In his career, the 25-year-old Williams has run for 388 yards and one touchdown on 80 carries, and with the Cardinals has proven to be an adept runner. Even still, he understands that his opportunities will come and go, and because of that it’s imperative to always be ready.

And if nothing else, he does feel good, at least, about how the Cardinals keep bringing him back.

“It does mean something, that someone holds you that highly, they keep on bringing you back,” he said. “Because a lot of guys, they don’t have that same opportunity, so it’s definitely a blessing that you are to keep on having the opportunity to play in this league.”

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Dealing Cards: Tyrann Mathieu understands challenge he faces