Colts head coach Chuck Pagano wasn't originally scheduled to talk with the media today during the second day of Colts rookie minicamp, but he did this morning in light of the suspension to his best defensive player, Robert Mathis. Yesterday the NFL suspended Mathis for the first four games of the 2014 season for violating the league's prohibited substances policy. Mathis said it was a fertility drug that he used for about a week until his wife got pregnant and then stopped. Either way, he admitted that he should have double checked whether the drug, reportedly clomid, was acceptable to use under the league's policy - which it isn't. Mathis appealed but was denied, and now he'll sit out the first four games of the season.
Pagano addressed the situation, saying:
"With regards to the recent suspension of Robert Mathis, we're going to honor the League's policy as far as confidentiality goes. We certainly understand the severity of this situation, but as we've done many, many times before in our short stint here, we'll get through this. We'll come together as a team. We'll come together as a family. We'll come together as an organization and we'll get through this. We love and respect Robert Mathis. He's a horseshoe guy, he's a pillar guy, and like I said before, we've got his back. Everybody in this organization has his back and we'll get through this and at the end of the day, we'll all be better for it."
Pagano left nothing open to interpretation, blatently stating that he has Mathis' back. Mathis is a team captain and last year led the NFL with 19.5 sacks, setting a franchise record and recording nearly half of the Colts' team sack totals by himself. Pagano, a defensive-minded coach, realizes that his team will be without their best defensive player for four games but also made it clear that the Colts have been through trials before and they'll get through them again. The team and Mathis rallied around Pagano when he was away from the team in 2012 while battling leukemia, and while the circumstances are different, it's clear that Pagano and the Colts are rallying around Mathis now. Pagano's comments today echo the Colts' statement yesterday about the suspension, and a few current and former Colts took to twitter to pledge their support to Mathis as well:
Colts Statement on the Suspension of Robert Mathis:
We have learned that Robert Mathis will be required to serve a four game suspension under the League's policy on prohibited substances. We recognize the extreme seriousness of this matter and will honor the confidentiality requirements of the League's program. We nevertheless wish to assure Robert and our fans that he remains an honored and cherished member of the Colts family and that we support him as he deals with this difficult challenge.
Matt Overton (@MattOverton_LS) May 16, 2014
Jeris Pendleton (@MONSTERPEN44) May 16, 2014
I wish people knew the truth! #FreeMathis— Cato June (@CatoJune) May 16, 2014
The NFL also released a statement regarding Mathis' suspension, which in itself is a very surprising move, as I can't ever remember the league responding to a suspension or a statement like that with their own statement - but this time, they did. And basically, they implied that they don't believe Mathis' story:
"As Mr. Mathis's agent acknowledged today, his client failed to follow the protocols in the policy that the NFL and NFLPA agreed upon to address precisely these kinds of claims. That policy also prescribes the disciplinary consequences of a positive test. The policy does not provide - nor should it provide - for the Commissioner to override the policy's procedures and assess discipline on an after-the-fact, ad hoc basis. Here Mr. Mathis actually withdrew his appeal and accepted discipline at the union's suggestion. His hearing took place only after the Players Association requested that the appeal be reinstated.
"The drug for which Mr. Mathis tested positive is not approved by the FDA for fertility in males and is a performance-enhancing drug that has been prohibited for years. Importantly, Mr. Mathis did not consult with the policy's Independent Administrator, a physician jointly approved by the NFL and NFL Players Association. Nor did he consult with his team doctor, the team's training staff, the NFLPA, the league office or the hotline established under the policy to give confidential information to players. Each of these sources would have warned against using this substance.
"A cornerstone of the program is that a player is responsible for what is in his body. Consistent application of the policy's procedures is critical to the integrity of the program."
It seems that the facts and details strongly corroborate Mathis' story, but whether or not the league believes him the fact of the matter is that Robert Mathis still has the unwavering support of his coach and of the franchise that he has been an outstanding part of for the past decade. And as for the Colts, they'll figure out a way to get by without Mathis for four weeks. This isn't their first obstacle and it won't be their last. As Chuck Pagano said, "there's going to be adversity, there's going to be circumstances, and nobody's built better to handle adversity than this group of people right here in this organization."