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Tyrann Mathieu smiled, because Leonard Fournette is coming to town Sunday for a football game and it’s a matchup the Cardinals safety has waited a long time to happen.
“It’s going to be pretty fun for me,” Mathieu said. “I come from the same neighborhood but I never had a chance to play with him. It was always, ‘What if those two played against each other?’ ”
Mathieu is three years older than the Jaguars rookie running back, but they have long been close friends as New Orleans natives. Both attended St. Augustine High school, both went to LSU and both wore LSU’s legendary No. 7 jersey (which was also worn by Patrick Peterson when he was at LSU.)
When Mathieu began having his “Heart of a Badger” football camp in New Orleans in an effort to
inspire some kids in the city, Fournette made sure to make an appearance and show his support.
Taking on Fournette will not be an easy chore, especially for Mathieu, who is 5-foot-9 and 186 pounds. Fournette is 6-1, 228.
“I think we all have to have the right mindset,” Mathieu said. “He’s been that size since he was 14 years old. I know he’ll run hard. He’s playing against me and Patrick so he’s going to have that extra motivating factor. He don’t want us laughing at him in the offseason, so I’m pretty sure he’s going to come in here and try and run a few of us over.”
Mathieu said with a chuckle that he might trash talk his buddy.
“I’m probably going to try and get in his head, but he’s level-headed for the most part,” Mathieu said. “He doesn’t really get into it like that. But I know if I get under his skin, he’s going to give me something back.”
Fournette is among the NFL leaders with 740 yards rushing – and that’s even after sitting out a game for disciplinary reasons and battling a bad ankle that has caused him problems since he was in college. Fournette said this week he’s learned how to manage the injury and was optimistic about playing Sunday.
The Jaguars are tops in the NFL in rushing at 160.6 yards per game.
“We’ll get our first crack at it this weekend and hopefully he’s healthy and ready to roll,” Mathieu said. “I know he’ll give us his best shot and I know he’ll get the ball 40 times. That’s 40 times we’ve got to put our big-boy pads on.”
Former Cardinal Calais Campbell is looking for a souvenir from Sunday’s game, mentioning that while he had not yet talked to former teammate Larry Fitzgerald, he was hoping to get Fitz’s jersey.
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“If it gets me a played-in Larry Fitzgerald jersey, that’s going to be the best jersey I’ve ever gotten,” Campbell said. “So that’ll be pretty cool.”
Fitzgerald said Campbell was “more than welcome” to have his jersey.
“Maybe I can trade it for a no-tackle-for-loss, no-sack game,” Fitzgerald said, smiling. “I’ll give him a jersey for the rest of the season.”
With Campbell playing defensive end and Fitzgerald sometimes blocking inside these days, the receiver was asked if he thought there was a scenario where he might have to take on Campbell.
“I hope there is no scenario where I have to see him at all,” Fitzgerald said. “I hope I see him at the coin toss and that’s about it. And after the game, for a picture. Besides that, I don’t want him anywhere near me.”
Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey hurt his hand in practice Friday and while he is listed as questionable, he told reporters he wasn’t going to be able to play Sunday. That would be a large development, especially since Ramsey was expected to cover Larry Fitzgerald.
“Jalen Ramsey with one hand is better than 95 percent of the cornerbacks in the league,” Fitzgerald said.
Wide receiver John Brown (turf toe) and defensive lineman Corey Peters (ankle) are out, but coach Bruce Arians said defensive lineman Josh Mauro (ankle) made good progress and has a chance to play Sunday.
Questionable for the Cards besides Mauro are wide receiver Brittan Golden (groin), safety Rudy Ford (knee), running back Elijhaa Penny (knee) and quarterback Drew Stanton (knee). Ford was downgraded to DNP Friday.
For the Jaguars, wide receiver Allen Hurns (ankle) is out. Joining Ramsey as questionable are linebacker Donald Payne (hamstring), guard Patrick Omameh (quad) and tackle Jermey Parnell (knee).
The Cardinals, in conjunction with St. Mary’s Food Bank, are holding their annual food drive Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium. Fans can bring non-perishable food items – peanut butter, canned meats and canned fruits and vegetables are the most needed – and drop it off outside all entrance gates. Fans can also make monetary donations.