(July 25, 2014) – With a four-game suspension looming at the start of the 2014 NFL season, Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis seems at peace with the circumstances that lie ahead of him. Of course, that is much easier to do when you are holding your six-day old daughter.
“I just kiss my baby, and wait for my turn,” said Mathis, whose third child was born on July 19.
Coming off perhaps his best season in his eleven years with the Colts with 19.5 sacks and 44 tackles, Mathis was suspended back in May for violating the the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Reports would come out that Mathis was believed to have taken the drug Clomid for fertility reasons without checking if it was a banned substance in the NFL. All of that is in the past now, and Mathis now is just trying to focus on the 2014 season. The first step in doing so is here in Anderson, even as the team prepares for the first month without their defensive star.
“I’m getting split reps with Bjoern (Werner),” said Mathis. “Just going out, maximizing the reps that I get. Kind of as an older guy, it’s not that much different with limited reps because you are an old guy. You let the younger guy get more reps, and this is pretty much the status quo.”
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano emphasized on Friday morning how important it is for the team to face the reality of playing without Mathis that first month, but the coaching staff can’t afford to let him just stand on the sidelines during the time in Anderson as well.
“We’ve got to get the other guys ready to go,” said Pagano.
“At the same time, we can’t let Robert sit around for four weeks, because then it turns into essentially an eight-week suspension if we did that. So Bjoern is going to get the lion’s share of the snaps with the ones. We’ll get Robert what he needs as far as individual drills. We’ll work him in, as you saw him out there with the twos from time to time so he can stay sharp with his skill set standpoint, technique, fundamentals, and to stay in it mentally.”
The Colts seem very pleased so far at what Werner, who was drafted with the team’s first round pick in 2013, has been able to do so far in Mathis’ spot. Pagano cited Werner’s hard work during the offseason, which began about a week after the Colts playoff loss to New England in January, and it has been showing in training camp.
“From a terminology standpoint, from a scheme standpoint, he’s not thinking right now,” said Pagano. “He can play extremely fast, he knows the defense pretty much inside and out. He’s very comfortable. We know he’s got ability, and the things that you are seeing, we are seeing the same things. But again, it’s all a byproduct of the time that he has put in.”
Even Mathis had some compliments for Werner, touching base on how well the second-year player is getting off the ball and how well he knows his assignments.
“Leaps and bounds,” said Mathis on how much Werner has improved. “He knows what he is doing, he can play fast, and more reaction than thinking. Defense is just reacting to what the offense gives you, and he can do that. You can give him the play, and he just goes.”
But Mathis knows that eventually his time will come when he gets back into receiving the reps with the number-one squad, and when it does, he only has one mindset.
“When my number is called, I’ll be ready.”