INDIANAPOLIS --- Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano announced Monday evening outside linebacker and last year's NFL sack leader Robert Mathis suffered an Achilles injury. Pagano did not say the severity of the injury, waiting until Mathis arrives in Indianapolis and is evaluated by team doctors. The reactions to the injury though were not promising.
"We knew we'd be without Robert the first four games, but really a devastating blow," said Pagano Monday evening. "This one stings, but like always, nobody better equipped to handle circumstances and adversity than this group."
Pagano said Mathis suffered the injury working out on his own in Atlanta during his 4-game suspension. Per league rules, Mathis can contact the team during his suspension to notify it of an injury. Pagano said Mathis did so Monday morning over the phone with Head Athletic Trainer Dave Hammer. The coaches and players were notified shortly afterwards.
"We talked about what happened, and we talked about everything we've been through as an organization when we got together in 2012," said Pagano about the team meeting Monday, pointing first to wide receiver Reggie Wayne overcoming a torn ACL at his age. "Everybody will rally around Robert and support Robert...whatever happens we are going to support him and get him through it."
Mathis is 20th in NFL history with 111 sacks. His 19.5 sacks last season led the NFL. For the Colts, it's a "next man up" mentality, but they also understand that kind of production can't be replaced by a single player.
"He is what Reggie Wayne is to this organization on the defense," said cornerback Darius Butler.
The Colts had one sack in the season-opener at Denver Sunday night by Erik Walden. Indianapolis must also deal with an injury to its back-up rush outside linebacker Cam Johnson, who Pagano said after the game Sunday has a tricep injury. Pagano said Johnson
So, the next men up are Walden, Bjoern Werner, and 5th round rookie Jonathan Newsome. That group has a combined 15.5 career sacks.
The Colts in recent years have been no strangers to adversity, and their first big challenge has presented itself.
"Adversity doesn't build character, it reveals it," said Pagano. "Tough, tough pill to swallow. Right now they're still absorbing it, the enormity and shock of it, but the sun is going to come up. The thing about this league, nobody really cares what you're going through."
And the Colts still have 15 more regular season games to play, with or without Robert Mathis.