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Tyrann Mathieu makes #NFLRank at No. 58

8/22/2014

This all seems so familiar.

Tyrann Mathieu, the Arizona Cardinals' talented second-year safety out of LSU, the same man who was kicked out of school -- missing his entire junior season -- because of a marijuana problem, is making a comeback.

Hasn’t this story been written?

But this comeback is different. It’s wasn’t the result of an off-the-field issue. Football, the sport Mathieu spent a year turning his life around for, was the culprit. He took a gruesome hit while returning a free kick in Week 14 last season against St. Louis. It resulted in a torn ACL and LCL, ending one comeback while simultaneously starting another.

For the past eight-and-a-half months, Mathieu has worked his way through rehab for another chance to strap on a helmet, which he did for the first time Wednesday at Arizona’s training camp.

"It’s like every year it seems like I’m trying to make a comeback," Mathieu said. "Guess that’s just my norm, who I am -- the comeback kid."

Despite the injury, Mathieu makes his debut as the No. 58 defensive player in ESPN's NFL ranks project. If he came in that high after one comeback, imagine where he will land after this season.

Mathieu showed in 2013 what he could do after a year away from football. He was a finalist for Defensive Rookie of the Year. The Honey Badger persona followed him to the NFL and he embraced it on the field.

He was versatile in his rookie season, playing free safety and cornerback in addition to special teams in 13 games before his injury. He was the Cards’ fifth-leading tackler (with 63), and if he had finished the season, Mathieu could have been in the top three. He added two interceptions and a sack to his rookie stat line.

Mathieu wants his second comeback to end running out of the tunnel for Arizona’s season opener on "Monday Night Football." He is still not sure if he will be the Honey Badger he once was, but Mathieu is used to having to prove himself.

"I don’t think I’m there yet," Mathieu said. "I think if I keep putting in the amount of work I’m putting in and I get back to that form, obviously it’ll prove a lot of people wrong."