TEMPE — Tyrann Mathieu returned to practice for the Arizona Cardinals on Wednesday and said he was optimistic that he would be able to play when the team faces the Vikings in Minnesota.
Coach Bruce Arians also confirmed after practice that wide receiver Jaron Brown has signed an extension that puts him under contract through next season.
Brown is out for the season with a knee injury.
"We love him as a football player," Arians said. "It looks like he'll be fine health-wise, gives him another year. He's earned it. Really happy for him and it's good for us because he's a quality special teams player and a real quality receiver."
The signing gives the team some protection should the Cardinals lose wide receiver Michael Floyd, who becomes a free agent at the end of this season.
"Jaron's a guy you don't want to lose," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "What he brings to the team, because he can play special teams, he plays every spot at receiver. He's got speed, he's physical, he catches the ball. He catches 50-50 balls very well. Just a very, very well-rounded receiver."
Brown's signing was first reported by azcentralsports.
Mathieu was limited in practice but said afterward that his shoulder felt fine. He was still wearing a brace on the knee that was surgically repaired late last season but was meeting with the doctor to discuss taking it off, which would greatly aid the mobility that is so crucial to the way he plays the game.
"Of courses I'd rather play without it," he said, "but I don't want to do anything that puts me in harm's way, so I'll talk to him. I'm sure we'll negotiate something."
The defensive back was sidelined with a shoulder subluxation in Arizona's loss at Carolina on Oct. 30 and missed Sunday's 23-20 win over San Francisco.
He said removing the brace would clear "another hurdle" as he tries to get back to his aggressive "Honey Badger" performances of the past.
The shoulder injury, he said, was just another challenge.
"Life frustrates sometimes," Mathieu said. "You've just got to deal with it. Can't get too high or too low. It's just another challenge for me. I embrace all those challenges."
The way Mathieu talked, his participation in Sunday's game was no sure thing.
"I'll see how I feel at the end of the week and if I'm at 100 percent, or very close to it, I'll play Sunday," he said. "If not, I'll hold back. ... I'm optimistic I will play. I try to look on the bright side of everything."
Mathieu was asked about the perception that he's handling this shoulder setback better than he did such problems earlier in his career.
"I don't know," he said. "From the outside looking in maybe, but it's frustrating on the inside, obviously. A lot of noise. You try to tune that out. Just another challenge for me. I embrace it."
The Cardinals defense ranks second in the NFL, allowing 295.2 yards per game, but Mathieu said the team doesn't have the swagger it exhibited in last year's 13-3 season.
"At times we've had swagger. We have had confidence," he said. "We're just playing inconsistent right now. We've just got to get that consistency back. Once we get that back, I'm sure we'll be rolling."
They'd better get rolling soon. At 4-4-1, the Cardinals can't afford many more stumbles if they want to challenge for a playoff berth.
After Sunday's game against a Minnesota team hungry for a win after four straight losses, the Cardinals go to Atlanta to face the NFC South-leading Falcons.
Notes: Larry Fitzgerald didn't practice due to knee and ankle injuries but Arians said he remains confident his star wide receiver will play Sunday. ... Palmer had another veteran's day off. ... Outside linebacker Chandler Jones missed practice because of a family issue.