KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu has tested positive for COVID-19 and was placed on the league’s reserve list Wednesday, though he could be back with the team soon and available for Week 1 against Cleveland.
Mathieu is fully vaccinated, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press, and NFL rules released in July say vaccinated players testing positive but are asymptomatic can return after two negative tests taken 24 hours apart.
The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because players’ vaccination details are not public knowledge.
The timing is fortunate in that the Chiefs planned to practice Thursday before taking the weekend off. They will resume their regular game-week preparation next week for a divisional playoff rematch against the Browns on Sept. 12.
Mathieu has been an All-Pro each of his first two seasons in Kansas City, helping the club reach the Super Bowl twice and end a 50-year championship drought in 2020. He is coming off perhaps the best season of his eight-year career, picking off a career-best six passes with 62 tackles and three tackles for loss.
Not surprisingly, the Chiefs are hopeful that they can sign him to a contract extension. Mathieu is entering the final year of a $42 million, three-year deal, and the two sides have had tentative discussions dating to the offseason.
“We had a chance to talk during training camp and really there was nothing I haven’t shared before that’s new or changed,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said Wednesday, shortly before the club announced Mathieu’s positive test.
“We’ll certainly work our tail off to get him done,” Veach said. “You can’t put absolutes on anything, or definites on anything, but we’ll be committed to seeing that process through. I can’t express how much we admire him and he knows that and we know he wants to be here, so hopefully we can follow that process through and get that done.”
The safety market was just set last month when Jamal Adams agreed to a new deal with the Seattle Seahawks. His four-year contract could be worth up to $72 million, making him the highest-paid safety in league history.
“I’m not disappointed at all,” Mathieu said at the start of training camp, when he was asked about the fact that a deal wasn’t done before the season. “I think most people that know me, know I love to play football, so I haven’t had a chance to do that. It’s all about my teammates, it’s all about the guys around me and me just continuing to try to be who I am and not letting anything outside of that kind of influence how I operate day to day.”
Mathieu is not just indispensable to the Chiefs defense, either. His unique hybrid ability to defend the pass, help against the run and even blitz the quarterback gives the potent Kansas City offense a problematic opponent in practice.
“It’s great to be able to go up against Tyrann,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said, “because he’s going to give you every look possible. I think that’s the best thing. He’s going to try to extend and kind of — like, how you hear quarterbacks trying to push it and try to get it through these tight windows, he’ll try to bluff a blitz and get back into coverage, and be in the right coverage at the right time. Or he’ll try to blitz in deep coverage and really not show the quarterback.
“It helps me out a ton,” Mahomes said, “because it kind of puts me on my toes and makes sure that I’m ready for all types of different things. He’s truly a special talent that does a lot of great things on the football field.”