During his 2013 campaign, Tyrann Mathieu thrust his name into the discussion for Defensive Rookie of the Year. After shredding his knee to end that season, the Honey Badger didn't have the 2014 he'd planned and admitted he was never fully healthy.
"It's been a long time since I've been healthy," Mathieu told the Arizona Cardinals' official website on Monday. "Last year I felt like I took a back seat. I played well my rookie year and then last year it was kind of, eh, I was there but I wasn't there. This (year) is more important for me because I really want to let everyone know I'm back and I can still make some plays."
The Cardinals safety said recovery from the ACL injury "was way harder than I thought," and that doesn't include the additional setback of a broken thumb.
"You saw him fight through it last year," coach Bruce Arians said of Mathieu during the NFL Annual Meeting. "He was not the player he was used to (being) and it was very frustrating for him."
With Antonio Cromartie leaving the desert to return to New York, Mathieu could be asked to shift down from his safety spot to cover the slot corner more often in 2015. The safety shrugged off questions about his role or fit in new defensive coordinator James Bettcher's system.
The 22-year-old said his knee is fine and hopes his thumb will be fully healed by the time OTAs begin. Mathieu's only goal is getting back to being a playmaker.
"You hear people talk and I had time to listen to them talk, so it's like ... I hear it," Mathieu said. "Like I said, I didn't feel like I made enough plays last year to help our team. I am looking forward to this year because I know I can do it."