INDIANAPOLIS – If you blinked on Tuesday morning, you had to ask who was that player sprinting onto the Colts practice field.
Yes, for the first time in nearly a year, that was No. 98 donning pads and a helmet at a Colts practice.
The Colts took Robert Mathis off the physically unable to perform list on Tuesday morning, allowing the team's all-time sack leader to return to practice.
Mathis has been beyond eager to return to the practice field, focusing on the Colts regular season opener (September 13) as his target date.
That date remains for Mathis, but Chuck Pagano was adamant on Tuesday that they will ease the pass rusher back into practice, starting with individual drills.
"I was really excited for (Mathis), for everything he's been through," Pagano said of having Mathis back practicing.
"Still have a ways to go. Not over the hill yet, (but) great start and it's a great place to be for him and us."
Pagano and the Colts team doctors met on Monday and felt like the next step for Mathis' Achilles rehab was to get on the practice field.
Once Mathis heard that, he couldn't put his pads on fast enough.
"You had to hurry up and do it before they changed their minds (laughs)," Mathis said of putting the pads on Tuesday morning.
Explore Mathis' social media and it's clear he was itching to get back to work.
At Training Camp, Mathis would retreat to the far end of the practice fields everyday for rehab work.
While Mathis' teammates were entertaining fans with their play in Anderson, the 34-year old was left to drills with tackling dummies under the watchful eye of Colts Director of Rehabilitation Erin Barill, not thousands of Colts-thirsty fans.
Despite how much it hurt Mathis to not be participating, the 12-year veteran knew why he was being held back.
"We all had the same plan, all were on the same level and agreement---take it one day-at-a-time, follow the protocol," Mathis said.
Mathis admitted on Tuesday there were plenty of butterflies in him as he returned to practice for the first time since prior to the 2014 preseason finale.
Individual drills were Mathis' workload on Tuesday with the plan being to add reps in the coming days/weeks.
Following practice on Tuesday, Pagano didn't delve into a time frame for when he expects Mathis to strap it up in a game.
Ask Mathis that question, and you get the same answer he provided at the end of the team's mini-camp in June.*
"Is a realistic goal still to be ready for Buffalo?"*
"Yes," Mathis said on Tuesday.*
"Will it happen?"*
A detailed look at the new armour Robert Mathis recently received from teammates Bjoern Werner and Daniel Adongo.