No 'MNF' for Mathieu if no go Thursday

TEMPE, Ariz. -- If Tyrann Mathieu plays Thursday night in San Diego, he’ll need just one play to gauge his comeback.

“That first play I get back out there, it’ll tell everything,” Mathieu said. “So, I’m looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to that moment I get tested. I’m looking forward to that time I get in a sticky situation where I have to use my brain. Hopefully, everything goes well with practice. If not, I know coach said he’s not going to play me. Hopefully, everything goes well this week.”

The key word, however, is ‘if.’

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians wouldn’t commit to Mathieu playing in Arizona’s final preseason game, but said this week will determine his availability for the season opener on "Monday Night Football" on Sept. 8.

“He won't play Monday night if he doesn’t play this week," Arians said. "That ain't happening."

Arizona has one more practice, on Tuesday, before traveling to California on Wednesday.

Mathieu returned to practice Wednesday after an eight-and-a-half-month recovery from ACL and LCL surgery. By Thursday, he was running with the scout team, although he didn’t play Sunday against Cincinnati.

Mathieu’s goal since last December, when he suffered the injury in Week 14, was to return for the Cardinals’ opener. Now that it's less than two weeks away, he can taste it.

“I think my knee is fine,” he said. “My knee is stable. Mentally you want to be able to be that same guy that you was last year. Even physically if you’re not, mentally you want to be better at that same guy from last year.”

Another step in Mathieu’s return is readjusting to being on the field.

After months of watching the Cardinals’ practice from the sideline, Mathieu has been seeing plays unfold from the defensive backfield since he returned. Part of the process for Mathieu to work his way back on to the field is readjusting his football vision.

“I just want to keep my eyes in the right spot,” Mathieu said Monday. “I’ve been looking from the sideline the last couple months. Just to get out there and get my eyes in the right place, once I can do that I can be able to fly around and make plays.”