Cardinals' Tyrann Mathieu suffers torn ACL

Bob McManaman
azcentral sports
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Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu, left, breaks up a pass intended for Philadelphia Eagles receiver Nelson Agholor during the second half of their Week 15 game.

Tyrann Mathieu’s “Savage Season” came to a premature end on Monday when, with coach Bruce Arians at Mathieu’s side, a doctor informed the Cardinals star safety that he has a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

The Honey Badger is now done for the season.

Mathieu, a candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year and the heart and soul of Arizona’s defense, suffered the injury toward the end of Sunday night’s 40-17 victory at the Philadelphia Eagles when he intercepted a pass from Sam Bradford and came down awkwardly on his right leg.

Mathieu had suffered a torn ACL and a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee during his rookie season in 2013.

Arians calls Mathieu his favorite player and it stems from their respective childhood backgrounds. They each were kicked out of school as young men and had to overcome obstacles to reach success.

Bruce Arians gets a bit emotional when talking about Tyrann Mathieu's torn ACL during the Monday news conference.

“We have a little different bond just because of where he came from, where I came from, and I’ve just gotten real attached to him,” Arians said. “I love the player, but I love the person more.”

Mathieu set a series of goals prior to the start of the season, most of which he has either met or was on the verge of attaining, and he labeled the 2015 season as his own “Savage Season.” It was his way, he said, of proving to the rest of the league what type of player he is.

FROM MARCH 8, 2014: Mathieu patient, passionate about journey back from knee injury

“He set goals and he was attaining him. I thought he should be right there with (teammate) Patrick (Peterson) for Defensive Player of the Year,” Arians said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt. He was having that type of season. It’s a shame with two games left. It’s always a non-contact injury when these things happen.”

Asked what type of blow this is to the streaking Cardinals, who are 12-2 and winners of eight straight, Arians said: “We go to work Wednesday. Nothing’s changed. They aren’t going to cancel the game. We’ve been through this many, many, many times.”

Arians said he was surprised to learn that the diagnosis was a torn ACL because of how Mathieu was moving around on the sideline after the injury.

“Yeah, he felt very relieved because he was walking fine,” the coach said. “He’s still walking fine. It’s just the MRI says differently.”

Mathieu will undergo surgery in a couple of weeks after swelling in the knee goes down. The good news is athletes are returning from ACL tears faster than ever. Teammate Carson Palmer, for instance, was back on the field throwing footballs less than six months after undergoing ACL surgery last winter. He’s now enjoying an MVP-type season as the Cardinals’ starting quarterback.

“Just look at what Carson did and what other guys have done,” Arians said, adding of Mathieu, “I’m sure he’ll attack it with the same passion he did the last time and he’ll be ready to roll.”

As for how the Cardinals will attempt to replace Mathieu, Arians said cornerback Jerraud Powers will likely move into the nickel cornerback position Mathieu often played, and that Justin Bethel will help handle outside coverage in passing situations. Arians also said fellow defensive backs Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger will take on expanded duties at the safety position, and that the Cardinals might make a roster move to bring in additional help.

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