Through two full seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, safety Tyrann Mathieu didn’t miss a single starting opportunity; he’s been a vital part of the team’s defense under coordinator Steve Spagnuolo since both arrived in 2019.
So his absence from Sunday’s season opener against the Cleveland Browns was — at the very least — noticeable. So was the reason he was out of the lineup: being unready to play after being on the team’s Reserve/COVID list from September 1 through last Saturday.
Other than Chiefs head coach Andy Reid admitting that he decided to hold Mathieu out of Sunday’s game, we’ve essentially had no information about the specifics of his case. Whether he was symptomatic from his exposure to the disease — or whether he was suffering any effects from it after being activated to the roster on Saturday — is completely unknown. And when he met with reporters on Thursday, Mathieu wasn’t interested in providing those details.
“I was really hopeful, obviously, that I could possibly get cleared before the end of the week of practice.” he said of last week’s Mathieu Watch among Chiefs fans. “I think it would be tough on anybody to not practice for 10 days — and then try to go out there and play a game that you’ve got to win at home.”
And while he had wanted to play, he said that he believed the coach had made the right decision.
“I thought coach Reid and the training staff really made the best decision for me as a player,“ he said. “So that was much appreciated — and much respected. But I’m very, very happy to be back.”
The All-Pro safety spent the Browns game on the sideline — and didn’t like it very much.
“Technically, I wasn’t injured,” he noted. “I’ve been injured in this league before — and when you can’t help your teammates, it always puts you in a bad spot.
“But I was proud of the way those guys fought throughout the game. Obviously, it didn’t really start how we wanted it to, but I thought those guys made the plays that mattered. That’s why we were able to win the game.”
With its starting safety — not to mention defensive leader Frank Clark — back in the lineup, the team is now preparing for its next game: a road matchup with the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday. Asked if he was at 100% physically, Mathieu said he was — and then equivocated a little.
“I think if I’m not, I think I’m getting there,” he said. “I think yesterday’s practice was pretty good for me — just going out there and having a full workload, getting back into the communication and just working with my boys. Any time I see those guys — my teammates — it always gives you that extra energy to kind of uplift you. So [I’m] just looking forward to kind of continuing to stack ‘em — and then getting in front of the world on Sunday night and showing what I can do.”
As he often does, Mathieu spoke of this latest challenge as another one of life’s teaching moments — one that should be savored.
“I think you’re always appreciative; I know I am,” he said of the lessons he’s learned in the last couple of weeks. “All my life experiences, [I’m] just trying to bottle them up.
“I think the most important thing is to always be appreciative and grateful; you never know what tomorrow’s going to bring. I know [that] me personally, I didn’t think I was ever going to catch COVID — you know what I mean? But I did. So it’s all about how you respond.
“That’s why I like playing football: it gives you a chance to respond to adversity [and] criticism. So I’m just looking forward to the challenge — and hoping I respond well for my teammates.”