The Arizona Cardinals got some good news on Thursday: Receiver John Brown and defensive back Tyrann Mathieu have both been cleared to return to action for Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Denver Broncos.
Conventional wisdom would suggest caution be used with both players. There is simply too much at stake for Arians to risk anything on a preseason contest.
Mathieu, one of the best and most versatile defensive backs in the league, returned to practice on Aug. 21 after tearing his ACL eight months ago. He has been practicing with the first team defense but has not played in a preseason game.
Brown has been plagued with headaches since suffering a concussion on July 31. While it’s unclear if Brown’s headaches are a result of the concussion or sinus issues, but he has made it through practice this week without headaches and that’s why he was cleared to play.
Brown told ESPN that the headaches would begin “as soon as I’m standing up, walking around,” but added that “I’m doing fine now.”
Having both players ready to go is great news for Arizona, which should not play either of them on Thursday night, instead targeting the regular season opener on Sept. 11 against the New England Patriots. This Arizona team is primed for a big season, loaded with talent, veteran leadership and the experience of coming off a 13-3 2015 regular season.
It’s onward and upward for Arians’ team and there is no sense messing with the health of either Brown or Mathieu in a meaningless preseason game. Both are simply far too crucial to the team’s success.
Mathieu was a first-team All-Pro last season at the age of 23. Playing both safety and corner and equally skilled at either spot, Mathieu had five interceptions, 17 pass defenses and 80 solo tackles in his 14 games last season. He is, quite simply, one of the NFL’s most disruptive forces in any defensive backfield, and he was rewarded for that by the Cardinals this offseason when he agreed to a five-year, $62.5 million contract.
Brown is no slouch either. Last season, the speedy wideout was second to veteran Larry Fitzgerald in receptions (65), yards (1,003) and touchdown catches (seven). He also was a huge field-stretching weapon, as his 15.4 yards per catch trailed only little-used reserve JJ Nelson (27.2) and part-time starter Michael Floyd (16.3).
And at age 26, Brown figures to have his best days ahead of him, especially as long as he gets to play the role of dangerous complementary weapon opposite Fitzgerald.
The bottom line is that gaining clearance for both Brown and Mathieu to return to action is great news for a team that is primed to contend for a championship.
All Arians has to do is make sure both of them have their legs under them and are physically fit to hit the ground running on Sept. 11. That’s when the Cardinals get an immediate test of their potential against the Patriots.