Injured Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu smiles on the sideline Sunday before his team's win over Green Bay.
Every day in practice, Tyrann Mathieu said, he'd make the same kind of interception that ended his season two weeks ago in Philadelphia.
Catch the football while jumping in the air. Plant and turn simultaneously.
"Just that time, it didn't work," Mathieu told azcardinals.com Monday, speaking about tearing his right ACL for the first time.
Mathieu paused, thinking back to the Sam Bradford pass. "I don't even know why he threw the ball to begin with," Mathieu said,
breaking into a laugh. "That's a conversation for another day."
The Pro Bowl safety, who might still be in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation, said he's handling the injury the best he can. Having been through his left ACL and LCL tear in 2013, he knows what is coming. That helps. He served as honorary captain with the Cardinals against the Packers and plans on being at the Seahawks game Sunday.
He is scheduled to have surgery next week, and isn't sure what that will mean for his playoff attendance, although he said team president Michael Bidwill has already offered him a spot in his suite once he cannot be on the sideline. Even Sunday, Mathieu said, he was extra cautious during the game, not wanting an accident to cause any further damage.
Mathieu isn't happy. But he isn't sulking either. That's important, he feels, not only for himself, but for a team primed as they creep closer to the playoffs.
"I'm going to definitely enjoy it because of all the work we have been putting in for the last eight months," Mathieu said. "I still feel like I'm a part of it. It's only right to enjoy it. I can't be one of those guys who is mad because he can't play anymore. I've got
to keep my team motivated, my teammates motivated, and whatever knowledge I have of the opponents, I have to give it to them."
Recounting the play on which he got injured, Mathieu said he felt it right away. "I don't know if it was optimism or just being naïve, I didn't want to believe it," Mathieu said. "But yeah, I knew."
Mathieu said his mindset will not be much different than the first time, other than he plans to reach out for more information and to more people in the process, so his understanding is crystal clear.
He has heard the many comments from coach Bruce Arians and his teammates, talking about how much they will miss his emotion and passion. They are sentiments with which Mathieu is familiar – the secondary in particular is close-knit – but they mean a lot, and mean more as he begins his journey back.
"These guys help me," Mathieu said. "Just being a part of something, for me, that's most important. I've always been that way. I've always wanted to be a part of something bigger than me. I never wanted it to be about Tyrann.
"It's real. I connect with them. I don't hide anything from them. I show them my scars. They know my personal life lows. They know when I'm doing great, they know when I'm doing bad, and I think guys respect that. I think they like working with me, because most of the time I'm smiling, I'm having fun and I'm just trying to play football."
Mathieu made an appearance at practice last week, even helping the coaches a little in the defensive backs' individual drills by throwing those very same passes with which he had just been picking, planting and turning. He didn't really like being on that side of the workout.
"Nah. I'm not like Rashad (Johnson), man," Mathieu said. "Coaching may not be in my future."
Mathieu chuckled again.
"I like playing," he said. "I don't want to get too comfortable on the sideline."
Images from Tyrann Mathieu's impressive 2015 campaign