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March 29, 2013
'Honey Badger' Tyrann Mathieu to visit 49ers

The Honey Badger will visit Santa Clara.

According to a league source, former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, a staple of national headlines for the last two years, will visit the 49ers on April 9. Mathieu had a memorable 2011 season at LSU but was kicked off the team for rules violations and did not play in 2012.

The 49ers have been looking at cornerbacks throughout free agency. However, they mostly have been big-bodied players capable of playing press coverage. At 5-9, 186 pounds, Mathieu is considered a nickel cornerback, someone with the quickness to cover the opponent's slot receiver. That's been a two-year problem for the 49ers (See: Cruz, Victor) and one that could get worse now that Percy Harvin is in the division.

Mathieu also proved to be a dynamic return man at LSU, and the 49ers have an opening there after Ted Ginn left via free agency to the Panthers and Kyle Williams suffered an ACL injury in November. Mathieu returned 25 punts in 2011, averaging 17.2 yards a return and scoring two touchdowns. Furthermore, one of the team's starting cornerbacks, Tarell Brown, is heading into the final year of his contract.

Teams are permitted to visit with 30 draft prospects over the next few weeks. Those visits could convey a strong interest in a player or the fact that there are question marks about the player or gaps in his dossier. Mathieu briefly entered a drug rehabilitation program last summer after getting kicked off the LSU football team. After bench-pressing 225 pounds only four times at the combine, his functional strength is a question mark. The 49ers, as well as every other team, must figure out whether his talent is worth risking a mid-round draft pick.

Mathieu, meanwhile, was spotted by TMZ while waiting for his bags at LAX earlier this month. Asked which team he'd like to join in 2013, he said: "It'd have to be the 49ers -- just as a fan. They got a pretty good organization and they got a pretty good dynasty that they're trying to pursue."

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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