Robert Mathis is one of the few remaining links from the current Colts teams to the teams that were led by Peyton Manning and that achieved incredible success, and Mathis is also one of the all-time great Colts and a player who will, one day, end up in their Ring of Honor. Yet entering the 2015 season, there are still plenty of questions surrounding the pass rusher about how effective he can be.
Mathis has had a terrific 12-year career since being drafted by the Colts in the fifth round of the 2003 NFL Draft, playing in 163 career games and starting 99 of them. He has recorded 367 tackles, 111 sacks (a franchise record), 50 forced fumbles (including 44 strip-sacks, an NFL record), 14 fumble recoveries (including one returned for a touchdown), 19 passes defensed, and an interception. He has recorded five double-digit sack seasons and has notched at least seven sacks in ten seasons (playing in 11 seasons total). In 2013, Mathis led the NFL in sacks with 19.5, winning the inaugural Deacon Jones Award (given annually to the league-leader in sacks). Then in 2014, however, he was suspended for the first four games of the season due to a PED violation, and while sitting out his suspension he tore his Achilles and missed the entire season.
Now, Mathis is getting close to returning to the field, though he hasn't been cleared yet and it's still unknown exactly when he will be back. His goal is for week one, but the truth is that it's really just a wait and see approach that the Colts are taking. Many are wondering not only about when Mathis will return, however, but also about how effective he will be upon return - because, let's face it, a 34-year old player coming off of a torn Achilles isn't exactly the most promising of situations. Mathis has proven doubters wrong all throughout his career, but this will be perhaps the biggest challenge yet, and it remains to be seen how he will do when returning. The Colts clearly have high hopes for him and it's good to be optimistic, but we'll have to wait and see it on the field. One thing we do know, though: getting Robert Mathis back healthy and productive would be absolutely huge for the Colts in 2015.