TEMPE, Ariz. – Since he was drafted, Cardinals third-round pick Tyrann Mathieu has been a greater focal point of the Phoenix media than top pick Jonathan Cooper or second-round pick Kevin Minter.
Given his myriad accomplishments at LSU — and his equally notable missteps off the field — that made sense.
But as organized team activities (OTAs) entered their third week on Monday at the team’s Tempe headquarters, the only heat Mathieu was feeling was that of the withering Arizona sun.
“It was 100 degrees at nine o’clock at night this weekend,” Mathieu said with the wonder of a Valley newbie. “You can’t even go and sit by the pool at night. It’s the same temperature it is during the day.”
Mathieu will adjust in time. In the interim, he has more pressing adjustments he’s looking to make, most notably, his shift to the free safety position.
“The mental side of it is a challenge — being at a different position, being in control of the entire secondary, making sure I’m calling the right calls and making the right checks,” said Mathieu, who took reps with the first-team on Monday. “That’s the most important and difficult thing for me.”
Mathieu is at an unusual disadvantage in that regard.
“He’s got a real soft voice,” coach Bruce Arians said, smiling. “So he’s got to learn to bark a little bit louder.”
The rest of Mathieu’s game appears to be in order, despite his unusually long layoff from the game after his dismissal at LSU.
“The athletic and physical parts aren’t hard at all. I’m up to speed there,” he said. “And the playbook is easy for me. I catch on to things easily.”
“I’ll do whatever I have to convince my team I’m committed,” he said.
Arians insists he is already seeing it on the field, including a pick-6 in Monday’s workouts.
“He gets thing the first time the coaches tell it to him,” Arians said. “He’s got natural instincts to play football. I’m really happy for him. He’s playing really well.”
Arians added that Mathieu is distancing himself from past issues.
“When you come into locker room, you’ve got to leave all that stuff,” Arians said. “Whether it’s family problems or whatever, that’s all got to stay outside.”
Given the months that have passed since Mathieu last played in a game (he was out of football last season after being dismissed for a violation of team rules that he later acknowledged to be numerous failed tests for marijuana), Mathieu feels like he’s making up for lost time.
“It just feels great to be a part of a team again,” he said. “I’m still adjusting to practicing in the heat and adjusting to working with a team after being out of football so long, but in this last phase of OTAs, I already think I’m getting a little better.”