In first pro game in hometown, former St. Aug and LSU star Mathieu has his first NFL interception and 10 tackles, but finds disappointment in loss
Arizona Cardinals rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu played the game of his young NFL career Sunday, but it mattered little against his hometown team at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The unbeaten New Orleans Saints overcame an early 7-0 deficit and steamrolled to a 31-7 victory, despite the efforts of the former St. Augustine and LSU standout known as the “Honey Badger.’’
Matheiu, who contributed a career-high 10 tackles and his first NFL interception, seemed to find little solace in his performance and did not mask his disappointment when talking with reporters after the game.
When asked if he planned to keep the intercepted ball thrown by Saints quarterback Drew Brees as a memento, Mathieu replied: “It’s a regular football. We lost. It doesn’t mean anything. It means nothing.
“We’re way better than that. I think the Saints are a great team, but I don’t they’re that good to beat us by 24 points.’’
Even the mention of LSU’s 35-21 victory against Auburn on Saturday night at Tiger Stadium didn’t elicit a smile from Mathieu, who entered the NFL draft in the spring after being suspended by LSU for repeated violations of the school’s substance abuse policy.
Mathieu said he did not watch the nationally televised LSU-Auburn game.
“I was focused on this game,’’ he said. “I saw the highlights. Pretty big win. I wanted to come in here and win this football game, and we weren’t able to do that. Simple as that. I wasn’t caught up too much in the outside influence.’’
A few cubicles away, Cardinals’ and former LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson offered insight and perspective to Mathieu’s business-like approach to his first game played as a professional in his hometown.
Peterson has become a mentor of sorts for Mathieu, who was taken by the Cardinals in the third round of the draft in April.
In May, Mathieu signed a four-year, $3.052 million contract that includes a $265,000 signing bonus and additional roster/workout bonuses worth $525,000 through the 2016 season.
In the Cardinals’ 25-21 win against Detroit, Mathieu clinched the victory by tackling Lions’ wide receiver Nate Burleson one-yard short of first down.
“I’m very happy for Tyrann,’’ said Peterson, who made two tackles as a cornerback and accounted for 24 all-purpose yards as a wide receiver and punt returner Sunday. “I kind of knew he was probably going to get (an interception) this week because he was getting his hand on a lot of balls. We have the utmost confidence in Tyrann, and for him to get his first pick back home, I know he’s very excited.
“He’s had some incredible accomplishments here in his hometown, so obviously, he wants to get a ‘W,’ so I’m with him. I’m fairly disappointed in the way we lost, too. But we’re professionals, and we have to bounce back.’’
In addition to helping Mathieu become a better player on the field, Peterson also is helping Mathieu toe the line off it.
“He’s doing very well,’’ Peterson said. “He’s been making some big-time plays for us and he’s been doing all the necessary things that he needs to do to continue to get better as a football player and as a professional off the field.
“He’s making great strides in the community, and we’re just looking forward for him to continue making plays for us. We know that he’s not going to let us down on or off the field. We’re definitely looking for good things from him.’’