It has become commonplace in professional sports for players to prioritize their contract situation — and they have the right to do so. In a profession where a career can end on one play, it’s important for players to get long-term financial security — especially when they’re playing at their best.
That’s why the contract situation of Kansas City Chiefs’ safety Tyrann Mathieu is so unique.
He’s entering the final season of the contract he signed with the team in 2019. With Mathieu coming off of two All-Pro seasons, both sides have reasons to work on extending the contract now: the team doesn’t want him to hit the open market in 2022 — and Mathieu wants to take advantage of his current value.
Yet training camp has started — and the two sides haven’t come to an agreement. In a time (and league) where that could easily result in a holdout or publicized quotes that could cause distractions, Mathieu is only concerned with one thing: playing football.
“I’m all about ball,” Mathieu told reporters after practice on Wednesday. “I love ball. It’s important for me to stay focused on that and let other things handle themselves.”
Wednesday was the first full-team practice of the 2021 training camp. As fans began to take their places to watch practice, Mathieu was one of the first players out on the field — and he didn’t miss a single OTA or minicamp practice from earlier this summer, either.
He’s a true leader that backs up what he says. When asked if he felt let down because the extension still hadn’t been finalized, he flatly denied it.
“[I’m] not disappointed at all,” Mathieu declared. “Most people that know me know that I love to play football. So I have another chance to do that. It’s all about my teammates, it’s all about the guys around me — and just me continuing to try and be the person that I am. I’m not letting anything outside of that influence how I operate day-to-day.
“That’s the most important thing: to not let anything become a distraction. The only thing on my mind right now is getting off to a fast start, making plays and continuing to lead my group.”
After two seasons with Mathieu, head coach Andy Reid said on Wednesday that he understands how Mathieu operates — and likely appreciates the attitude Mathieu has had about this situation.
“He said it when he came here: ‘I just want to play.’ That’s where he’s at,” said Reid. “He loves it here, and he just wants to play.”
Chiefs’ owner Clark Hunt was also asked about Mathieu on Wednesday. He made sure to emphasize that the organization wants to keep Mathieu beyond his current deal.
“Tyrann’s the ultimate professional, and really has been his entire career in the league and definitely in his couple years with us,” Hunt reflected. “I know he’s going to be at his very best this year. I’ve heard Tyrann say that he would like to extend his career in Kansas City, and we feel the same way about that. Hopefully, that will work out; the timing is obviously uncertain”
In June, Mathieu said that he wants to stay in Kansas City long-term. Now, the owner of the franchise is expressing that he wants him here past his current contract term. So if both sides want to get it done, what’s the holdup?
It could be a number of things — and we’re not going to pretend like we know the details of the negotiation. At the end of the day, though, we probably just need to trust the words we’ve heard from both sides.
Specifically, we should listen to Mathieu — who only used one word to answer the last question he received about his contract extension on Wednesday: is he confident that the contract extension can get done?
“Yes,” he replied matter-of-factly.
It’s only a matter of time before the two sides finalize the deal — but until then, Mathieu (and the team)simply aren’t allowing it to be a distraction.