Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu poses for a photo with a young Honey Badger fan on Saturday at Kidtopia.
A variety of emotions have coursed through Tyrann Mathieu since Thursday, the day he said the Cardinals called and asked him to take a pay cut.
While the uncertainty about his future looms, it hasn’t affected the veteran safety’s steadfastness to give back to an Arizona community that has long adored him. Mathieu posed for photos and signed autographs at Kidtopia, an interactive festival for kids, on Saturday afternoon at the Gilbert Civic Center.
Mathieu showed up 10 minutes earlier than scheduled and greeted each fan with a big smile and a handshake.
“Arizona has always embraced me, since the day I was drafted,” Mathieu said. “I’ve just always tried to do my part the last five years. Like I tell people, I don’t think I do anything special. I just try to be myself. I try to be gracious. I try to be considerate of others. As far as the people of Arizona, it’s always great to be around them, to help influence them in a positive way. I’m grateful for that.”
When he spoke after the autograph session, Mathieu did not say whether he believes he will be around to attend similar events next season. Guaranteed money triggers in Mathieu’s contract on Wednesday, which has made his future with the team a hot topic around the NFL. Mathieu has not said publicly whether he would be willing to take a pay cut.
“I think, obviously, in the next week or so we’ll have to make a decision,” Mathieu said. “We’ll all know exactly what’s going on. I think everybody that’s close to me knows where my heart is. And at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.”
When asked if he wanted to extrapolate to the world what he’s telling people close to him, Mathieu chuckled.
“Technically, I’m an Arizona Cardinal, and I’m happy being that,” Mathieu said. “Everything else is noise.”
Mathieu said contract discussions are part of the business of the NFL, pointing out that even wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has gone through it. Mathieu has been leaning on former Cardinals Jerraud Powers and Rashad Johnson, current Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson and former Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman for advice during this time.
Mathieu said he is trying to embrace the process, but admits all of the moving parts have his head spinning a bit.
“You play out a lot of different scenarios,” Mathieu said. “For me, I like to play out the worst-case scenarios. For the most part, a lot of people I talk to (tell me) to basically just stay positive. Obviously I’m a professional, and that comes first. There is a way to handle business. I’ve just tried to do that. I try to have fun. I try to smile. I try to crack jokes on Twitter. I’m not trying to take it too seriously. But like I said, I love Arizona. I definitely want to be here.”
Mathieu was a superstar at LSU, but failed drug tests got him kicked out of school. He had a fantastic rookie season in 2013 and an All-Pro campaign in 2015 with the Cardinals, but each of those years ended with torn ACLs. Mathieu is looking at his current situation as the next challenge.
“I kind of look at my life as a DB,” Mathieu said. “I’m constantly having to transition. I’m constantly having to make up ground that I’ve lost. I take pride in being a DB, and I take pride in my life. So I just try to look for the positives and silver linings in a lot of things. I try to, most importantly, keep falling forward no matter what.”