GLENDALE, Arizona — The Arizona Cardinals wrapped up training camp on Friday, with two important cogs in their defense working their way back into the fray.
Safety Tyrann Mathieu has made a speedier-than-expected recovery from a severe knee injury and outside linebacker John Abraham is working his way back into shape after arriving late after taking care of what he termed "personal stuff."
Mathieu, "Honey Badger" to his fans, was having an outstanding rookie season last year before tearing his left ACL and LCL in week 13.
The 36-year-old Abraham had a team-high 11½ sacks last year and earned his sixth Pro Bowl appearance.
Mathieu said the recovery from the type of surgery he had is supposed to take 12 months. He did it in 8Â½.
"I think it's some good luck," he said before Friday's practice. "But I've been going really hard in my rehab, just been trying to do everything everybody asks me to do, do some extra when I'm not with the trainers. I think the recovery went great. I'm just looking forward to that day I can get back out there and be able to go at full go."
He came back at 197 pounds, about 11 or 12 pounds heavier than last year.
In his first workout with the team on Thursday, he knocked a couple of players down while playing safety on the scout team, one of them prize running back Andre Ellington. He joked that the added weight made it harder to stop.
"I thought he was going to throw me out of practice. He doesn't usually let people hit Andre," Mathieu said.
The 36-year-old Abraham, entering his 16th season, reported to camp last Friday, explaining that he had been dealing with "personal stuff." He was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence in suburban Atlanta in late June.
Coach Bruce Arians immediately said Abraham would be the starting outside linebacker. The team sorely needs Abraham for a pass rush that is questionable without him.
Abraham wasn't too concerned about whether he would play before the Sept. 8 season opener against San Diego.
Abraham is the NFL's active career sacks leader with 133Â½. He ranks ninth on the all-time list and needs 8Â½ to climb past Michael Strahan into fifth place.
"If I can get up the sacks and disrupt the offenses like I've been doing my whole career, I don't have to worry about anything else," he said.
The Arizona defense also will benefit from the return of nose tackle Alameda Ta'Amu, who saw considerable playing time last season, his 6-foot-3, 348-pound frame clogging the middle.
Friday's practice was the last one that was open to the fans. The workouts will shift from the air conditioned comfort of University of Phoenix Stadium to the other side of suburban Phoenix at the Cardinals' practice facility in Tempe.
Arians said the Arizona first unit will play no more than a half of Sunday night's home game against Cincinnati. Backup quarterback Drew Stanton will play the third quarter, with rookie Logan Thomas quarterbacking the team in the fourth. Ryan Lindley, competing with Thomas for the No. 3 quarterback job, apparently will not play.
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