INDIANAPOLIS – One of the toughest pieces of news for the Colts this year happened last week when Robert Mathis was sacked by the NFL for the first four games of 2014 for the use of a fertility aid.
Mathis and his wife, Brandi, wanted to add to their family, so briefly last year he used a treatment commonly employed by families in such instances.
Mathis had sought help through an Atlanta physician, but did not check with the league, the NFLPA or the club prior to taking it to ensure no rules were violated.
The treatment succeeded, but the use of it did not mesh with NFL substance policy.
Last Friday, the league imposed the suspension and resulting efforts to review the case by Mathis' representation and the union yielded no change.
Weighing in yesterday at an Atlanta league meeting, Commissioner Roger Goodell added, "I chose not (to hear the appeal). I didn't see any reason this was different than other cases, and I do not hear those."
Mathis addressed teammates about the matter earlier this week and expressed publicly today how disappointing it will be to be sidelined.
"Extremely. You're out here building relationships with guys. To not be out there (in September) it's extremely disappointing," said Mathis. "(You) try to move past it.
"I addressed my teammates. They understand my stance. (I told them I'm) sorry. I'll be back."
It was Mathis being Mathis – one of the most professional players ever to wear a Colts uniform. When he speaks, it is E.F. Hutton-esque, but teammates know his integrity and do not judge the matter.
"I didn't need to hear it because I know who he is," said Cory Redding. "I have no doubt what kind of person, character and man he is. I didn't need to hear it for my betterment. Let's just keep rolling."
Aware outsiders could have a different take, Mathis said those individuals can say what they will, but he knows the truth. While he wishes there were a do-over, it is not possible.
Said Redding of differing opinions, "It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what the outside says. It's about the inside of the building and how they feel. That's what matters."
Mathis said being motivated during the time away will not be an issue. He will work throughout camp and preseason before sitting. If there are ways to stay connected within rules, he will.
Accounting for 46.4 percent of the team's sack total a year ago, Mathis expects others to contribute.
"It's been a 'Next Man Up' mantra since day one. I expect nothing less," said Mathis. "We have guys here for a reason. I expect them to get the job done."
"We have 53 men, maybe more than that," said Redding, as on-lookers questioned from where contributions come. "I'm pretty sure Robert has a backup. The next man has to get in there and play ball, period. It doesn't matter who's in there. We have to get the job done."
Andrew Luck said the team is not wasting its breathe talking about something that cannot change. What matters is the response.
"We realize the circumstances. We're going to be without our best player for the first four games, so guys are going to have to step up," said Luck. "Stepping up has been a theme for this team since I've been here, whether it's coaches or players going down for various reasons.
"We'll manage. We'll do our best. We have a lot of confidence in a lot of guys in this locker room to pick up the slack."
Chuck Pagano reiterated when the news broke that Mathis is a "pillar" guy and the team will get through the moment and "be better for it."
Mathis led the NFL last year with 19.5 sacks, winning the inaugural Deacon Jones Award. It was the club's highest seasonal sack total, placing him with Dwight Freeney (2004) as the Colts' only league sack champions. Mathis (111.0) moved past Freeney (107.5) last year as the franchise career sack leader.
The six-time Pro Bowler will miss road games against Denver and Jacksonville and home battles with Philadelphia and Tennessee before being eligible October 5 against Baltimore.
Indianapolis has been resilient before in tough stretches by keeping focused on competition.
It did so in 2012 when Pagano contracted leukemia and missed 12 games. It did so last year when, among other things, the club lost five offensive starters for the season.
"We've had our share of bumps," said Ryan Grigson. "We've had quite a bit of significant ones, but we know we're judged by wins and losses.
"This league is all about the bottom line. We understand that. Unfortunate things happen because it's just life, and life in the NFL. We roll with the punches."
Mathis always has played with a bit of a chip on his shoulder because of his size, that he was not scouted heavily before attending Alabama A&M, was not invited to the combine and had to hustle for personnel types prior to the 2003 draft.
His production speaks volumes, far more voluminously than his words. He was at his succinct best when asked today if that chip now will be even bigger.