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Robert Mathis: "I'll Be Back"

Robert Mathis apologized to his teammates for his suspension and told them, "I'll be back." His teammates support Mathis and have confidence that the team will step up in Mathis' absence.

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes, being a leader means owning up to a mistake and asking for forgiveness.  That's what Robert Mathis, an unquestioned leader of the Colts, had to do recently.

Mathis apologized to his teammates after being suspended for the first four games of the upcoming season due to violating the league's prohibited substances policy.  Mathis admitted that he should have checked with the league first before taking the substance, which was to help him and his wife conceive - which they did, and they are now expecting.  While that's great news for the Mathis family, the Colts will now be without their best defensive player and without one of their leaders for the first four games of the season.  And for that, Mathis apologized to his teammates."(I told them I'm) sorry," Mathis said.  "I'll be back."

While it was the right move to apologize, another one of the team's best players and leaders, Cory Reddingsaid he didn't need to hear it.  The reason for that, he said, is, "because I know who [Mathis] is.  I have no doubt what kind of person, character and man he is.  I didn't need to hear it for my betterment.  Let's just keep rolling."

"We have 53 men, maybe more than that.  I'm pretty sure Robert has a backup," Redding continued.  "The next man has to get in there and play ball, period.  It doesn't matter who's in there.  We have to get the job done."

While he won't be around for the first four weeks, he has confidence that his fellow Colts will do just that.  "It's been a ‘Next Man Up' mantra since day one," Mathis said.  "I expect nothing less.  We have guys here for a reason.  I expect them to get the job done."

Quarterback Andrew Luck also realizes the challenges that playing without Robert Mathis will present to the Colts, but he remains confident as well that his teammates will step up and play well.  "We realize the circumstances," Luck said.  "We're going to be without our best player for the first four games, so guys are going to have to step up.  Stepping up has been a theme for this team since I've been here, whether it's coaches or players going down for various reasons.  We'll manage.  We'll do our best.  We have a lot of confidence in a lot of guys in this locker room to pick up the slack."

The comments of Redding and Luck reflect those of Chuck Pagano, who shortly after the suspension of Mathis was announced publicly declared his and the team's support for Mathis.  "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," Pagano said.  "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."

It won't be easy.  Robert Mathis personally accounted for nearly half of the team's pass rush last season and was going to be counted on as heavily this year as well.  Now, for the first four games of the season, the Colts won't have Mathis and will have to come up with that pass rush somewhere else.  I looked at how the Colts will try to replace Mathis and how it will be a team effort, and regardless of how tough it seems the fact is that they're going to have to deal with it and step up.  That was the theme amongst the Colts today and that will remain their theme.  They've been through struggles before and they've maintained their motto of "Next Man Up" for a long time.  The Colts will have a chance to put that into practice from the get-go in 2014 until Robert Mathis returns in week five with a chip on his shoulder.