Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu is coming along nicely from his torn right ACL, but that doesn't mean he is rushing back. Unlike his first knee injury, Mathieu is not racing to get back on the field.
This time around, he is trying to be patient -- but in a good way.
Speaking to reporters at a Bruce Arians fundraiser over the weekend, he indicated he is ahead of schedule, but the element of patience is there.
Does that mean being on the field when the Arizona Cardinals open the season at University of Phoenix Stadium against the New England Patriots?
"If I'm ready, I'm ready," Mathieu said, according to ESPN's Josh Weinfuss. "But I want to be 100 percent, and I feel like last time when I came back I wasn't necessarily who I am as a football player. So I'm just looking forward to being patient, challenging myself to be patient and then coming back at 100 percent."
When he tore up his knee in his rookie season, he worked hard to get back on the field as quickly as possible. The result was less than ideal. He was not the impactful player he was his rookie season and looked tentative.
He doesn't want that again.
"If I'm 90 percent, then I don't necessarily want to go out there," Mathieu said, according to AZCentral's Kent Somers."I've already shown who I am and what I am, so my objective is to come back that same person. And if I can't come back that same person, maybe I should wait until I am that person again."
It makes sense to let him be ready this time around. Arizona is prepared for it. Their moves in the offseason with the defensive secondary seem to have Mathieu's absence in mind. Safety Tyvon Branch, whom the Cardinals signed this offseason, can play multiple positions. He can play safety and in the slot like Mathieu does. They see fifth round pick Marqui Christian being able to do many of the same things and being position flexible.
Because Mathieu has been through the rehab process, he will know better what his knee should feel like. It should be much like Carson Palmer last offseason, who came back a better player than before.
It isn't as if Mathieu is just taking things slowly. He is ahead of schedule, according to what he says. He just doesn't want to pressure himself to come back too quickly just to play. He wants to be the same impactful player he was in 2015, when he was mentioned in Defensive Player of the Year discussions.
It is not a question of whether or not he comes back in Week 1. The important question is whether he can come back and be the Honey Badger. If that means missing a game or two, then it is worth it.