GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Tyrann Mathieu's storybook rookie season has taken a turn for the worse.
"The only injury that I know right now is Tyrann," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said after his team's 30-10 win over the St. Louis Rams. "It appears to be an ACL. We don't know for sure, but that's the only one that's severe enough to report right now."
Mathieu was tackled awkwardly while returning a safety kick from Rams punter Johnny Hekker in the third quarter. He lost five yards on the play, and fell to the ground while trying to jog off the field after the whistle blew. He stayed there for some time before being carted away with a left knee injury.
Mathieu was not available in the locker room for comment.
Should Mathieu have suffered an ACL injury, his season would most definitely be over and 2014 training camp would also be in question. It would put an end to a magical run for the rookie, who went from being out of football in 2012 to a possible NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013. Arians thinks Mathieu is a lock for the award.
But to see it all end on a play where Patrick Peterson, the team's normal punt returner, was supposed to receive the ball was frustrating for the coach.
"I just wish that he'd (Rams punter Johnny Hekker) kicked that damn ball to Patrick," Arians said.
If this is indeed the last we'll see of Mathieu this season, he will end the campaign with 68 tackles, two interceptions, one forced fumble and nine passes defensed.
"We'll wait and see, I think that's just the early prognosis of the exam that we have right now," Arians said of whether or not Mathieu is definitely done for the year. "He'll go through the MRI and all the rest of the tests.
"Let's keep our fingers crossed."
At this point, that's all the Cardinals can do,
"That's tough, that's so tough," defensive end Calais Campbell said of the injury prognosis for his teammate. "In this game, that's the worst part about it. It happens. I wish him a speedy recovery if that's the case, and I know he'll bounce back strong."
That will be the trick. For a player who has lived a fairly charmed season, an injury like this could go a long way toward derailing a potentially outstanding career. At 21, Mathieu's future appears to be bright, but he's never really had to deal with something like this.
"It was tough, you don't want to see anybody get injured," fellow rookie Andre Ellington said. "He's a friend of mine and I'm going to encourage him throughout the offseason and make sure he gets that out of his mind and understands that he's got to go to work. He's got to get back to where he was before and be better than ever."
Mathieu tweeted after the injury:
I KNOW MY BROTHERS GOT MY BACK.. #Birdgang ! I'm with y'all every step of the way !— Tyrann Mathieu (@Mathieu_Era) December 8, 2013
I appreciate everyone prayers. We go through things in life to test our faith & strength..— Tyrann Mathieu (@Mathieu_Era) December 9, 2013