One week from today (Saturday), Indianapolis Colts players will report to Anderson University for training camp, and one week from Sunday the team will hold their first practice. One player who is not expected to take the field right away with the team, however, is pass rusher Robert Mathis, who's return date is still unknown.
Mathis, of course, is recovering from a torn Achilles that he suffered last year, and team owner Jim Irsay noted that his return might be as late as November, though that appears to be a worst-case scenario. Later, Irsay reiterated that he didn't expect Mathis to be ready for the beginning of training camp. At the beginning of June, Mathis told WTHR that he will be back for the Colts' week one game against the Buffalo Bills on September 13. Whether that will actually happen, and when his return to practice will be, are both still unknown.
But on Saturday night, Mathis posted a positive sign to social media, showing a video of him working on his spin move. He attached a message giving a shoutout to the Colts' training staff and included the hashtag "getting me back 2 being me."
There are certainly questions about the 34-year old pass rusher as he attempts to come back from a torn Achilles, but if he can come back healthy and produce for the Colts it would be a huge boost to their pass rush and to their defense as a whole. He is the franchise's all-time sack leader with 111 and the NFL's all-time strip-sack leader with 44, and the last time we saw him on the field was in 2013 when he racked up a league-leading 19.5 sacks, carrying the Colts defense for much of the year.
What we have to understand and keep in mind is this, however: the Colts are likely to take things slow in bringing Mathis back. Scout.com's Phillip B. Wilson said it perfectly the other day when writing about how the Colts are likely to take it slowly with Mathis' return:
They want Mathis healthy and at his best later in the season, particularly in the playoffs. He's not needed in preseason games, and because they team proved it could sack quarterbacks without him last year, they won't rush him back or put him in a position where he could try to do too much too soon.
While the Colts' pass rush was far from impressive last year without Mathis, Wilson's main point is this: the Colts want Mathis healthy for a potential playoff run, and they will probably be willing to take it easier early on in the season because of that. So while the video of Mathis is a positive sign that he's hopefully getting close to being ready to return, let's also keep in mind that the Colts are likely going to take things slow with his return, and if he's ready by week one that's what is important, not training camp.