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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Can Tyrann Mathieu be trusted? Bucs want to know



The Bucs brass spent much of Thursday with one of the NFL draft’s most interesting prospects.

Former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu was at One Buc Place as one of the team’s 30 pre-draft visits, attempting to put to rest questions about his ability to stay clean after a college career marked by failed drug tests and a drug-related arrest that ended any hopes of a return to LSU.

Because Mathieu plays a position of great need for the Bucs, it’s conceivable they could take a chance on a player with a checkered past.

Mathieu has been to rehab and has been open and seemingly honest about his indiscretions. Maybe, just maybe, he’s genuinely learned a lesson.

During his interviews at the NFL combine, he certainly said all the right things.

“I've been to rehab, I've been to counseling, I have a sponsor,” Mathieu said at the time. “I'm surrounded by people who do what I want to do and that's be a professional football player. I think the last few months have been going pretty good for me.”

Asked what he hoped to accomplish when speaking with teams prior to the draft, Mathieu said, “First of all, I want them to be able to trust me. I hold myself accountable for everything I've done and in this past year, it's been tough. At the end of the day I want them to know that I'm a football player. I want to be a great teammate and I want to be the same leader on the field that I know I can be off the field.”

But Mathieu knows that trust must be gained.

“I'm not totally asking them to trust me right now," he said. "What I have asked is for them to give me an opportunity to play the game. I've had a lot of time to reflect on it, especially without football. It's really given me a different outlook on life.

“My best friend right now is honesty. I want to be as open as possible because I'm trying to rebuild people's trust.”

The attraction to Mathieu is obvious. The so-called “Honey Badger” was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2011, taking the nation by storm with his with his playmaking ability and versatility. He has played outside cornerback, slot cornerback, safety and is savvy as a pass rusher when asked to blitz. He’s undersized, at 5-9 and 178 pounds, but he’s been a good tackler and big hitter nonetheless. He’s seen as a likely middle-round draft choice.

The Bucs do have some history of taking chances in the draft. Their biggest gamble came when picking receiver Mike Williams in the fourth round of the 2010 draft when many teams had removed him from their draft boards. Williams was seen as having quit the Syracuse football team (there’s still some ambiguity about what really happened) after a suspension for violating team rules.

But the Bucs did their due diligence and had the conviction to draft Williams, who has been one of the team’s most productive draft choices in recent years and has mostly stayed out of trouble as a pro.

Is Mathieu worth a similar gamble? Can he be trusted? Those likely are the very things the Bucs were trying to determine during that visit to One Buc Place on Thursday.

[Last modified: Friday, April 5, 2013 11:03am]


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