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The Badger is bothered.

Something is different this year about the Honey Badger – Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu. He won’t come right out and tell you what it is, but you know it’s different. You feel it in his words, in his eyes, even in his new-but-old Honey Badger hairdo, if that’s even possible.

“Enter at your own risk,” a fellow Cardinals defensive back whispered as reporters closed in on Mathieu during the only day of media availability this week after the team’s first official day of organized team activities.

Whether that was a warning or a weird welcome remains unclear. All that is certain is that Mathieu, the undersized man-child of Arizona’s stellar defense, looks and sounds very different as he prepares for his fifth NFL season.

RELATED: Tyrann Mathieu makes 2017 NFL Rising 50 list

Maybe it’s because he hasn’t been able to get through a full season without suffering some type of injury, big or small. Perhaps it’s because he’s seen so much violence in his home state of Louisiana and got so exhausted preaching patience and peace on social media that he took a vacation from Twitter.

Who really knows with the Badger? This seemingly different attitude could just be a new way to motivate himself. But when he speaks, and doesn’t really offer in-depth specifics, it makes you wonder. Like this answer when asked why he feels like he has to change his attitude this year:

“I think at times you tend to put other people’s opinions and expectations over your own and I think it messes with you mentally, emotionally, spiritually, so you’ve just got to quiet the noise, focus on yourself, think about yourself, and get better within yourself.”

But who has higher expectations for Mathieu than Mathieu? Is someone else challenging him or calling him out? Is it about the five-year contract extension he signed that made him the highest-paid safety in the NFL coupled with his inability to stay on the football field to earn all that money?

MORE: Check out the NFL’s highest paid players – regardless of position

“Not at all. Not at all,” he said. “Like I said, it’s really noise. Sometimes, you don’t perform up to expectations and people judge you, people critique you. Sometimes in life, you hit road bumps. People act like they never hit road bumps, so it’s just really important to quiet the noise, focus on yourself and just get better.”

According to coach Bruce Arians, Mathieu just needs to stay healthy. Arians knows what type of impact player the defensive back can be when he’s at his capable best. It’s why Mathieu was on his way to possibly capturing NFC Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2015 until suffering the second torn ACL of his brief professional career.

Last year, it was a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the final six weeks of the season.

“That’d be it, stay healthy,” Arians said. “The season he was (having), he had a chance to be Defensive Player of the Year, but you’ve got to finish it out.”

Mathieu won’t look back; his eyes are on the moment and what he kept saying over and over, that he is here to “win the day.” This new outlook means there will be no bold proclamations, no personal goal-setting, no more “Savage Seasons.” That’s what Mathieu called 2015 when he was winning, every week, until getting injured.

MORE: Cardinals receiver ‘Smoke’ Brown ready to catch fire again?

Now, it appears, he’s just going to keep his head down and move forward quietly – but with a big thump every time he meets a ball carrier.

“I don’t really have any goals this year,” he said. “I’m just trying to attack every day, win every day, and just focus on everything day by day. But I don’t have any goals. I’m not even thinking about tomorrow. I just want to win the day.

“I think at times we tend to get ahead of ourselves. I just want to own the day, attack the day, think about the day and not worry about any expectations I may have in September.”

Mathieu said he is returning to his football “roots.” Only he really knows what the means, but apparently, it has a ton to do with confidence. And that, he said, is important.

“Yeah, I mean extremely important,” he said. “Ever since I was a kid, my game was pretty much built on confidence, being confident in myself, believing in myself. I’ve really just got to get back to my roots, tune out all the noise, and just really focus on myself and getting better each and every day.”

RELATED: Carson Palmer throwing less this spring 

Whether Mathieu’s words come off as cryptic or straight from the heart is up for interpretation. But reading between the lines, it appears as if the Honey Badger is back, albeit a little wiser with a little more introspection.

“I’m just more confident,” he said. “And I’m just having more fun. When you’re injured or struggling through injuries or you’re having an up-and-down year, you tend to lose confidence and you’re not really having that much fun. So it’s important for me to just have fun this year and not really have any expectations or goals, just really attack each and every day.”

Note

The team signed Grambling State wide receiver Chad Williams, its third-round draft choice, to a four year contract on Thursday.

Reach McManaman at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac and listen to him live every Wednesday night between 7-9 on Fox Sports 910-AM on The Freaks with Kenny and Crash.

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