For Tyrann Mathieu, the best way to get back onto the football field -- and stay there -- appears to be taking a season off.
That's the plan according to his father, Tyrone Mathieu, who Jen Hale of Fox 8 Sports in New Orleans, spoke to Thursday night. According to Hale's report, the Honey Badger has been at a drug and alcohol recovery center in Houston since Monday and will not pursue playing football until he successfully graduates from the program. CBS' Bruce Feldman has since confirmed the report, adding that Mathieu is specifically there to treat marijuana issues. Mathieu is also reportedly meeting daily with former NBA star and head coach John Lucas, who struggled with his own addictions while as a player and has since become one of the more highly regarded "life coaches" for athletes battling drug and alcohol dependency.
While there has been plenty of interest from teams looking to add Mathieu since his abrupt suspension by LSU, time was running out for the 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist to pick one as the college football season kicks off in less than two weeks. Mathieu's admission into the Right Step Recovery Center likely means he will not be playing college football at any level in 2012.
Whether he plays or not, because he'd technically be three years removed from his high school graduating class and therefore potentially eligible for the 2013 NFL draft following this season, pro scouts have quietly been keeping an eye on the situation, as well.
Scouts were hesitant to speak about Mathieu, specifically, due to the fluidity and seriousness of his situation as well as the fact that he still has two years of collegiate eligibility remaining. The subject proved too topical, however, for all of them to ignore it -- even if never actually referring to the Honey Badger, specifically.
"Look, before we worry at all about grading any player on what he can bring to the field, we have to be convinced that he is a going to be a quality person in our building and in our community," said a high-ranking front office executive with 20-plus years in the NFL. "Secondly, we have to remember that these are 20-24 year-old kids. A lot of us made mistakes at that age that we wouldn't want the world to know about it. When a player acknowledges his mistakes and works to put a quality support system in place around him, he puts himself in position to make more mature decisions about his future and how he might get there. I think it is the smart move; maybe the only move."
Another scout put it more bluntly.
"He [Mathieu] is a playmaker, there's no denying that, but to me that is what makes the story interesting. As big of a star as he's been for them, how bad must he have been off the field for the team [LSU] to pull the plug? It looks like he needed to do this. I hope it works out well for him. He's got talent, that much is obvious."
Of course, besides the off-field concerns, Mathieu remains a polarizing prospect for scouts despite the fact that he -- not one of the three SEC players drafted in the top 10 this year -- was honored as the conference's Defensive Player of the Year in 2011.
Listed by LSU at 5-feet-9 and 178 pounds, Mathieu certainly lacks the size scouts prefer. While he's instinctive, tenacious and has proven to be a standout against the best college football players in the country over his first two seasons, many question how well he'd handle the adjustment to the greater size and speed he'd face in the NFL. Others cite the hybrid roles he played at LSU and argue that he could play in a similar capacity in the ever-evolving defensive schemes gaining in popularity in the NFL.
Mathieu is currently NFLDraftScout.com's No. 3 rated CB for 2014.