Mathieu on alert for punt returns

When he was drafted, Tyrann Mathieu knew he wasn’t taking Patrick Peterson’s job as the Arizona Cardinals’ punt returner.

But that doesn’t mean he won’t get an opportunity to return punts during the regular season. Special-teams coordinator Amos Jones said Mathieu may relieve Peterson at any time, which means one of Mathieu’s incredible breakaways could be on tap at any time.

“He’s always going to be in-game capable ready because you never know what Patrick’s gotta do on the defensive side,” Jones said. “So he’s getting his catches. We’re not exclusively saying Patrick’s going to be back there every play.”

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians will decide if and when Mathieu will return a punt ahead of Peterson, Jones said. Sometimes it’ll give Peterson a breather and other times it might be to give Peterson a different perspective watching on the sideline.

But don’t be surprised if Peterson and Mathieu line up together, Jones added. Arians talked about that during minicamps and OTAs, but it sounded more like an idea designed in the sand than a reality. But Jones is also in favor of playing the two former LSU stars together on punt returns.

“It’s a situation there were Patrick’s going to have to play another position, which means he’s going to have to be on the field at the same time ,” Jones said. “So the scenario there is yes, we’re going to have them on the field at the same time.

“Where he lines up? Who knows.”

With Peterson’s role on offense increasing – his package was at 60 plays toward the end of training camp – his performance in the other two facets will be closely monitored. One wonders if Arians would decrease Peterson’s role in another area if Peterson’s play slips. Chances are that’s unlikely, but if it happened, where would Arians limit his two-time Pro Bowler? Peterson is Arians’ fifth receiver and his top cornerback. Reducing punt returns, especially with Mathieu, could be the most logical option. And even as competitive as Peterson is, he may not mind letting Mathieu of all people handle a few more punts.

Peterson was fielding kickoffs during Thursday’s practice, but Jones said not to fret, it was only to practice on end-over-end kicks.

"Which is what everybody does in the red zone," Jones said. "So catching kickoffs is not anything we envision for him as much."