When the defensive backs hit the field at the 2013 NFL Combine, former Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu will make his public return to the football field for the first time in over two years, albeit without a helmet and pads. The journey, which included rehabilitation for the ex-LSU Tigers playmaker, has gone through Boca Raton, Fla., where Mathieu has worked with Arizona Cardinals cornerback and former LSU teammate, Patrick Peterson, according to Jim Kleinpeter of The Times-Picayune.
Even without the legal troubles that have become synonymous with the "Honey Badger" and resulted in the premature conclusion of his time with LSU, Mathieu has obstacles to overcome, especially, his lack of size, as the 5'9 cornerback is expected to weigh in at about 175 pounds and isn't particularly fast.
Peterson's father, Patrick Peterson Sr., is a coach and trainer, and he runs the camp at which Mathieu has been working. Regardless of the off-field issues and size disadvantage, Peterson Sr. told Kleinpeter that he's confident Mathieu will be able to show his ability in the NFL:
"He's going to be good. He's going in strong," Peterson Sr. said. "He's looking like Tyrann. He's staying away from the off-field stuff and he's focused.
"He looks like he means business, very locked in. He knows he can't get another strike. He's conformed to our rules, working out and trying to get better."
In a conference call on Monday, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock discussed the draft stock of Mathieu and projected a third day selection. Mayock told reporters that most teams don't expect Mathieu to run anything faster "than the 4.5 or 4.55," but according to Peterson Sr., he's already bested that mark with a 4.47 hand-timed 40-yard dash at the camp.
The defensive backs are the final group to arrive at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, as they will not report until Saturday. For the first three days, Mathieu will participate in interviews with teams that will surely have questions about his off-the-field struggles. On Tuesday, the "Honey Badger" will make his return to the football field with timing, skill and positional drills.