INDIANAPOLIS –The last three Sundays have been very difficult times for linebacker Robert Mathis, and he hopes to make life just the same for Miami on Sunday.
Mathis does not have anything against Miami personally, it is just that the Dolphins are this week's opponent and he is able to return to the game he loves.
Mathis was a limited participant in Wednesday's practice by design and on Thursday, he said he has been green-lighted for action.
"That's the plan," said Mathis of playing this weekend. "I look forward to being back out there with the fellas again. I'm feeling pretty good. They kind of had me on a snap-count (in Wednesday's practice) to see where I was at. I'm feeling pretty good. I'm looking forward to getting back and playing ball."
There is no such snap-count designed for Mathis on Sunday.
"When it's on, it's on," said Mathis. "When they blow the whistle, whatever plays I'm out there, I'm out there."
Mathis could be excused for his excitement. He injured a knee in the late stages of the Green Bay game and was forced to sit. It marked the first time since 2007 he has missed so many games. The forced rest was not a welcomed respite from action.
"I was resorted more to a cheerleader role more so than a player for a few weeks. I was itching to get back. I'm very anxious," said Mathis. "(It was) very hard (to sit and watch). I never like to be a guy who sits back and just watches. I always like to be in the fight."
Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians is aware of the special type of player Mathis is. His impact extends far beyond the 88.5 sacks, 40 forced fumbles and 14 fumble recoveries he has created in 139 games.
"I think more than the play itself, the sacks, is the passion he brings to the game," said Arians. "Not to say the guys aren't giving everything they have, but he's got a special fervor, a special passion. He gave a great speech before the last home game, and I thought it was great the way he did it, the way he presented it. He challenged each guy. That heartbeat you can't replace."
Mathis has sacks in seven straight games, dating back to last year's finale. In 2005, he set an NFL record with sacks in eight consecutive games to start a season, and he hopes to extend that number against Miami.
Mathis has 20 career multiple-sack games, including two three-plus sack games. Mathis has four of the 17 double-digit sack seasons in club history.
Mathis says he likes the experience the defense has gained in the last three games. He liked the unit's overall effort and poise, particularly in the last two games – wins over Cleveland and Tennessee.
Mathis also looks forward to getting back to action with tag-team partner Dwight Freeney. Freeney exited the Chicago opener after eight plays. Freeney's first game back was against the Packers, when Mathis went down.
They have not had much time to create their mayhem in the club's 3-4 attack.
"I know the (opponents) have to have at least two or three full sets of eyes on him (Freeney) at all times," said Mathis. "I'd like to feel like I would draw a little bit more attention, too. Knowing you can't single-block him, it helps me as much as I feel like I help him. We've been doing it for 10 years. We feel like we have continuity and can feed off each other."
The Colts have feasted off the production of the two Pro Bowlers. Indianapolis is 25-8 when Freeney and Mathis combine for sacks. They each produced 10 sacks in 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2010 to set the NFL mark for most seasons with teammates doing so together, surpassing Reggie White and Clyde Simmons. They have combined for 20-plus sacks in five different seasons (26.5, 2004; 22.5, 2005; 22.0, 2008; 23.0, 2009; 21.0, 2010).
"It's going to be great. Hopefully, we string some games together like we did back in the day together. It's great to have my partner in crime back," said Freeney.
Sunday will mark the 130th time Freeney and Mathis will take the field together. Leading tackler Jerrell Freeman will enjoy the company on the linebacking corps.
"He's Robert Mathis. He's a special guy, and there's a reason why," said Freeman. "He grinds it out. He does all the right things. He's selfless. If you watch film, you see a lot of selfless play from him. The expectations for him are high. He's special.
"You really have to watch for Dwight and him. They've been a dangerous combination for a while. It's definitely great to have them back in the lineup."
TIME TO SPEAK – Arians mentioned this week that Mathis spoke to the team before the last home game and that his words were beneficial to the cause.
Earlier this year Head Coach Chuck Pagano said Mathis is more of a vocal leader than one might think, given his normally quiet nature. It is that quiet nature of Mathis that brings emphasis to his words.
"You know, more than you think," said Pagano when asked how much of a vocal leader Mathis is. "It's more by his play and what he does on the field. When he has to (speak), he's kind of like E.F. Hutton. When he talks, everybody listens.
"He (Mathis) quietly goes about his business, and it's probably more by example. "When he has to, he's the type of guy that can put his arm around a guy and whisper in a guy's ear and they're going to pay attention. They're going to listen, and it'll speak volumes."
This past Sunday, Reggie Wayne exhorted the team at halftime when it was down, 10-3, in a game it went onto win in overtime, 19-13. Arians said the moment to speak is one taken frequently by a key veteran.
"Just about every game (a veteran speaks)," said Arians. "Reggie is not a very vocal guy. He usually leads by example, but it was a good one. Cory's (Redding) done it, Robert's (Mathis) done it. We have good veteran leadership, and he picked the right time for his. I think it struck home with a lot of guys.
"Once I get done hollering and screaming, then someone else can. We break it down and then one of the veterans usually says the last thing."