Mathis apologizes to the Colts as he moves on after suspension

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INDIANAPOLIS – How important is Robert Mathis to the Colts?

The franchise player was happy to give up his spot in a heartbeat when asked about the linebacker.

“We realize we’re going to be without our best player probably for the first four games,” said quarterback Andrew Luck about Mathis on Wednesday afternoon. “So guys are going to have to step up.”

For some that may seem like a bold statement for the quarterback to make considering that Luck is the face of the franchise in the post-Peyton Manning era. But if anything it underscores just how big Mathis’ four-game suspension to start the season will be for a Colts team hoping to put together a Super Bowl run.

“So we’ll manage, we’ll do our best and I think we’ve got a lot of confidence and a lot of guys in this locker room and in this building to pick up the slack,” said Luck.

It’s something Mathis would rather not see his team have to do. Speaking for the first time since his suspension, Mathis said he apologized to his teammates for getting banned by the league for four games due to a violation of the league’s performance enhancing drugs policy.

Mathis came out with a statement shortly after the suspension claiming the failed test was caused by fertility drugs the linebacker was taking to help he and his wife have a child, which they are expecting later this year. The NFL heard Mathis’ case but refused to overturn the suspension.

So in the meantime, the linebacker must deal with life on the sidelines in hopes the time off the field passes quickly.

“Extremely. You’re out here, summertime, building relationships with guys and to not be out there, it’s extremely disappointing,” said Mathis.

Being out four games to start the season is particularly discouraging for Mathis who enjoyed perhaps his finest NFL season in 2013 with an NFL-high 19.5 sacks. But Mathis didn’t sound discouraged on Thursday when talking about his time out.

“No, even more motivation,” said Mathis when asked if it will be difficult for him to stay motivated during the suspension. “I know how hard the team works and I know how hard that I work personally. So being motivated, that’s not an issue. Just can’t wait to get back.”

Of course one of the questions to Mathis during his quick media session on Thursday was whether he would have not taken the drug Clomid, which the linebacker answered in the affirmative.

“Yeah, they’re decisions that you make in private and you have bad professional decisions,” said Mathis. “So weighing your options, of course I’d like a redo, but I can’t take it back.”

When it comes to replacing Mathis–easily the team’s best defensive player–cliche dominated the speech of the Colts as they look ahead to the first quarter of the 2014 season.

“It’s been a next man up mantra since day one and I expect nothing less,” said Mathis. “We have guys here for a reason and expect them to carry out, get the job done.”

That includes the face of the franchise, who was happy to pass that distinction on Thursday.