Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu has come back from one major knee surgery. We saw him playing at an elite level last season. But then he tore his other ACL and now he is in the rehab process again. Will he come back and be the same player? Not according to him, as he told CBS Sports' Pete Prisco in a recent video interview.
No, he won't be the same player. He will be better.
"I can't tell you how much better I feel every day," Mathieu said. "I just had surgery two months ago and I am able to do five- and six-hour workouts. I don't run home and try and take a nap. I run home and do some sit-ups. Try to get yoga. I am not tired. I am in such a great place. I am going to be better than I was."
Apparently, this is different than coming back from his first knee injury, which is odd. It seemed he was ahead of schedule the entire time when he was coming back in 2014. He was, but he didn't come back and make much of an impact on the season. He was brought back slowly and then started playing more. Then he broke a thumb and that set him back.
"Going into my second season, I made every excuse," he said. "I gained weight -- I was about 200 pounds. I made every excuse about why I missed a tackle."
He recalled a game in 2014 when the Cardinals played the Washington Redskins and Washington receiver DeSean Jackson caught a slant against Patrick Peterson that went for a 64-yard touchdown. Mathieu said he took the wrong angle on the back end, allowing him to score. "I looked up at coach and I made every excuse why I couldn't make that play," he said.
That got to him. "I said I wouldn't do that again."
He said he cut his weight down to 175 and is now slowly adding it back on. He wants to play in 2016 at about 190. It would seem he didn't know how to play at 200. Looking back at when he was coming back in 2014, you could tell he wasn't thrilled about the weight.
Because he has gone through this process before, he has to have a mental edge over last time. While there might have been doubt last time, he was able to fully recover and play at a high level. He knows that. Now he, just like Carson Palmer did last offseason, can come back and know exactly what he needs to do. He saw himself do it. He has seen Palmer do it.
He doesn't need excuses. He has the focus. I don't know if he can actually be better than he was, as he was so great last season, but it feels like we should expect him to be able to come back and at least be the player he was a season ago.