The Indianapolis Colts reported to training camp today, and as camp begins one of the biggest questions is about the status of pass rusher Robert Mathis. The Indianapolis Star's Stephen Holder said that he's told we won't get any official injury updates today (such as the PUP or NFI lists), but he also gets the impression that Mathis won't be practicing on Sunday when the Colts take the field for the first time.
Though he might not be back right away (which was expected), the return date for Mathis is still unknown. Mathis has said that he plans to be back for the start of the regular season, while others in the organization (such as Jim Irsay) have refused to lay out a timetable, saying that it could be a few months into the regular season or it could be much earlier. The bottom line is that, right now, we just don't know.
It does appear as if Mathis is getting close, though, as he has been showing off his spin move and other workouts on his Instagram account. Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said today, however, that the Colts won't rush Mathis back but will instead wait until he returns to 100 percent.
Greg Manusky says team will wait for Robert Mathis to be 100 percent, not rush him back. #ColtsCamp15— George Bremer (@gmbremer) August 1, 2015
This is just another indication of what we have figured all along: that the Colts are going to take things slowly with the veteran pass rusher. He's 34 years old and coming off of a torn Achilles, so they don't want to rush him back too quickly. Rather, the team would like to have him on the field and at his most productive late in the season and in the playoffs. Maybe that means he's limited a bit earlier in the season, but I think that's a payoff the Colts would be willing to take. They want Mathis there when the games really, really matter, and that's why they're taking it slow with him. They want to be sure that he's ready to return before he actually does return, which is what Manusky was getting at today.
The hope is that, whenever Mathis does return, he will return to some semblance of the pass rusher he was before his injury. 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 in 2013 he led the league in sacks with 19.5, winning the inaugural Deacon Jones Award. The hope is that he can return somewhere close to that form, and the Colts think that the best chance of that happening is if they take it slowly and don't rush him back, instead waiting until he is 100 percent. And hopefully, that pays dividends in the team's most important games later in the season.