LIKING THE SITUATION

Colts defensive lineman Ricardo Mathews said he feels fortunate to be with a team where draft status means nothing when it comes to making a roster.

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Ricardo Mathews Feeling Fortunate For Opunity With the Colts

INDIANAPOLIS – So far, Ricardo Mathews likes what he has heard. A lot.

Mathews, a defensive tackle from the University of Cincinnati, spent the first weekend in May at the Colts' 2010 rookie mini-camp. There, Mathews said he heard what he has heard about the franchise since being selected in the April 22-24 NFL Draft:

Roster positions around the Colts have nothing to do with reputation.

Or draft status.

Or, for that matter, even if a player is drafted at all.

Because Mathews was a late-round selection, and because he has confidence he can play effectively on the defensive front no matter his draft position, that's something Mathews said gives him a good feeling moving forward, a very good feeling.

"I'm fortunate to come into a system where first-round pick, second-round pick, third-round pick, four, five, six and so on – it doesn't matter," said Mathews, a seventh-round selection by the Colts in the 2010 NFL Draft, and one of multiple rookies who will be profiled on Colts.com in the coming weeks.

"If you're a free agent, it doesn't matter."

That, Mathews said, was the theme of a message from two Colts players on the final Friday morning of April.

One was linebacker Gary Brackett.

The other was quarterback Peyton Manning.

Manning was the No. 1 overall selection in the 1998 NFL Draft from the University of Tennessee, and Brackett signed as a collegiate free agent from Rutgers in 2003.

Two different ways to enter the NFL . . . one important message:

Around the Colts, what matters is how you play.

"That's the first thing they tell you," Mathews said. "It makes you more at ease with yourself, so it kind of takes a little bit of stress off. Not a lot, because you still have to go through camp and fight and go through pads and everything.

"Once you get into a system, you still have to make the team. After the draft, I feel like I have an equal chance. That's what's nice about the Colts, it doesn't matter."

Mathews (6-feet-3, 294 pounds), is used to having to fight for playing time, and to prove himself.

A second-team All-Big East selection as a senior, Mathews played extensively during his final three seasons, and it was as a senior that he made the biggest impact and improved his NFL status. He registered 11.5 tackles for losses as a senior, and after he played tackle most of his college career, many analysts believed he could play end or tackle in the NFL.

"He is a power defensive end," Colts President Bill Polian said during the NFL Draft. "He can also move inside and rush in the forefront. He is a real physical, hard-nosed tough football player. We like everything about him in that role. We think some of the things we are going to do on defense this year, we'll have a specialized role for him, and we feel really good about it."

Mathews, who said he can play tackle or end, had 69 career tackles with 5.5 sacks and a fumble recovery.

But Mathews said something else could factor in his favor as he strives to fill whatever role the Colts have in mind for him. He is, he said, a high-character player, and he said off-field or on, he will do what is necessary to be a credit to the organization.

"First and foremost, I'm about to bring a character that no one has seen before – I'm confident of that," Mathews said. "I'm never going to do anything to hurt the team. I'm always there to help the team out. I'll change water bottles if I have to."

And while Polian and the Colts haven't publicly said precisely what role Mathews might fill, he said "knowing they have a role for me, that's really appealing to me."

"Everything's appealing to me when you get on this level," Mathews. "You're finally getting paid to do what you love to do."

Mathews, like the rest of the Colts' rookies, are not scheduled to return to Indianapolis until mid-May, the start of the Colts' organized team activities. He said his goal by then is to learn as much of the Colts' system so he can be ready to contribute – and perhaps even compete – with the veterans.

"I want to learn the playbook," told Colts.com during the rookie mini-camp. "I need to learn the system. I figured that out, because I felt like I was lost and it's no fun feeling lost. I want to learn the system because then I can play to the best of my ability."

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