About midway through Wednesday night's evening practice for the Indianapolis Colts, owner and CEO Jim Irsay showed up in his golf cart to make his first public appearance of training camp. He stood around talking with general manager Ryan Grigson for quite a while as he watched his team practice, and then afterward he spoke with members of the media.
He mentioned that he wants to get extensions done for wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and left tackle Anthony Castonzo before the 2015 regular season begins, but the biggest note from Irsay was his comments on the potential return of outside linebacker Robert Mathis. When will Mathis, who is on the PUP list as he recovers from a torn Achilles, be ready to return to the field?
"We've talked about October roughly,'' Irsay said, per FOX59's Mike Chappell. "Can he come back quicker than that? Knowing Robert, anything's possible. I really don't know if he's going to be ready for the Buffalo game to open the season. I know he'd like to be, but it's really going to be up to our doctors to decide has he progressed enough to where he's cleared and gets off PUP and he's ready to go. I would say early October, late September. We'll see.''
Mathis told WTHR earlier this offseason that he planned to be back by the team's September 13th opener at the Buffalo Bills, but the Colts have always seemed to be a bit more reserved in their estimates. Irsay had previously mentioned November (though as more of a worst-case scenario) and the Colts have repeatedly declined to give any clear timetable for a return. None of that has changed, but Irsay's comments tonight again show that the team isn't sure Mathis will be back by the start of the regular season, though the outside linebacker would certainly like to be.
Mathis is working very hard to come back, and you can see him on a side field at practice running around, making cuts, and working out. He looks good doing it, but running and cutting are not the same thing as returning to football activities and getting on the field. For that, we might still have to wait a little bit, as Irsay mentioned it might be late September or early October - which would mean that Mathis would miss a few games.
For the Colts, they're willing to take it slowly if it means they'll have a fully healthy Robert Mathis later in the season when the games really matter a lot more, and that's not a bad approach to take. It's likely tough on Mathis, who can't wait to get out there, but it could end up paying dividends later on if the Colts continue to take it slow and make sure that the linebacker is fully healthy and recovered from his torn Achilles instead of rushing him back.