INDIANAPOLIS – Wearing his No. 98 jersey on Wednesday night, Robet Mathis drew cheers from the Colts faithful inside of Lucas Oil Stadium anytime he appeared on the jumbotron.
Those cheers came before and after practice with Mathis helmet less, still sidelined, rehabbing his Achilles injury.
When does Mathis expect to be stirring roars inside NFL stadiums again?
"Game One, versus Buffalo," Mathis said on Thursday.
Sweat covered Mathis' face on Thursday as the Colts all-time sack leader was fresh out of the weight room when he met with the media.
For a man used to going "100 miles per hour", Mathis has had to be patient with a set back that he calls the hardest hurdle of his 13-year NFL career.
"It's not a lot of can't do, it's more of just being cautious, taking it one step at a time," Mathis said of his rehab.
"I'm making big strides. I'm clearing a lot of hurdles and I'm very encouraged."
An Achilles injury at the age of 34 has led to a tricky timetable for a player so predicated on his lighting-like burst at the snap.
On Wednesday night, Jim Irsay presented Mathis with a watch, to honor the season No. 98 had when he was last on the field (Mathis had an NFL-best 19.5 sacks in 2013).
Also on Wednesday, the Colts Owner/CEO spoke on the rehab of Mathis.
"I would say I don't see (Mathis) being football ready for the beginning of Training Camp where he would be a full-go guy and that sort of thing," Irsay said when asked about the August 1 date.
"Obviously, Robert wants to be back as soon as he can be. We want him back as soon as he can be, but we also want to make sure when he comes back that he's 100 percent healthy and ready to go. Again, I talked about early November. It could be sooner than that certainly. But as far as the start of Training Camp, I don't see him being as a full-go guy right when we're starting up at Anderson."
Timetables aside, Mathis was staunch on Thursday in his belief that there's something special about this year's Colts, something different from past seaosns.
When Mathis broke down the Colts huddle at Wednesday's mini-camp inside of Lucas Oil Stadium, his message was "let 2006 happen again."
That Super Bowl drive has Mathis ready for six weeks of constant work during the final stretch of the offseason.
"It's go time. I took a year off, it's time to go."
A visual look back at the amazing career of Robert Mathis. (2003-present)