TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals are not planning on saving Tyrann Mathieu's return to game action for the season opener on Monday Night Football against the San Diego Chargers.
The defensive back, who is returning from a torn ACL and LCL suffered late last season, got on the field and practiced with his team last week, but did not appear in the team's preseason loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
But if he is to be in uniform and on the field for the season opener, he must be ready to play by the preseason finale.
"He won't play on Monday Night if he doesn't play this week," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "That ain't happening."
When informed of his coach's comments, Mathieu, with a smile, asked, "Is he serious?"
Only Arians knows for sure, though Mathieu said there is a "great possibility" he'll get some game action Thursday in San Diego. It will all depend on how practice goes over the next couple of days.
Being ready for NFL action a little more than eight months removed from the injury would be another big step in the process for Mathieu, who said playing Thursday is a goal, but it all depends on how things go in practice over the next couple days.
The thing is, though, he's not concerned about the knee injury that kept him out for so long. A third-round pick out of LSU who finished with 68 total tackles, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one sack in 13 games as a rookie last season, Mathieu said the only thing keeping him off the field is the mental part of the game.
"I think that's what it is," he said. "My knee is fine, my knee is stable. But you want to, mentally, you want to be the same guy that you were last year. Even physically if you're not, mentally you want to be better or that same guy from last year."
That's why, he added, he's more concerned about getting his eyes in the right place than his knee holding up, noting that once he's good to go there he'll be able to fly around and make plays.
The defense will certainly benefit from his return, which has quickly gone from a question of "if" to "when." And now, it would seem the answer is very, very soon.
While that could lead to some nerves, be it due to the injury or questions of what kind of player he will be, with Mathieu it's exactly the opposite.
"I'm excited," he said. "I sat out football a year, so I'm not really worried about playing in a game. I know what I can do, so yeah, I'm just looking forward to that day I get back out there."