The boss was asked all the obvious questions — about the health of outside linebacker Robert Mathis, ongoing contract talks with wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, offensive left tackle Anthony Castonzo, quarterback Andrew Luck and head coach Chuck Pagano, as well as Irsay’s expectations for his team in 2015.
Irsay, 55, doesn’t abbreviate his answers. The quickie summations are that Mathis isn’t expected to be full go when training camp opens Aug. 1 at Anderson University, all contract talks for beyond next season continue to be ongoing and he’s excited about the possibilities for his Colts, who have been tabbed by many as Super Bowl contenders.
“I think that there’s a lot of great potential, everyone knows, offensively,” he said of the team adding wide receiver Andre Johnson, running back Frank Gore and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, among others. “When you talk about just the leadership, the character, just the pedigree coming in with Andre and with Frank Gore, that’s special because this is an offense that was very productive last year, obviously, and it’s returning basically everyone, and the additions we made.
“The draft dictated to us, as drafts will. When we were looking at Dorsett with that (first-round) pick, we had talked thoroughly about that and we really thought that could be something special for us, getting an elite guy with that type of speed.”
He later added, “That offense has the potential for greatness, but only time will tell.”
As for Mathis, who is coming off a lost 2014 season due to a four-game suspension and Achilles tendon tear, Irsay acknowledged his franchise sack leader is anxious to be ready for camp, but reiterated that might not be realistic.
“I don’t think at this point anyone knows for sure,” Irsay said. “Obviously Robert is optimistic and he’s a fast healer. You just don’t know. I would say I don’t see him being football-ready for the start of training camp, where he would be a full-go guy and that sort of thing.
“Time will tell. 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 (at owners’ meetings). It could be sooner than that certainly. But as far as the start of training camp, I don’t see him being a full-go guy as we’re starting up in Anderson.”
He volunteered that the defense must improve from a season ago and Mathis would help that tremendously. Later on after the practice, Irsay concluded a speech to the team at the 50-yard line by presenting Mathis with a watch to commemorate the 2013 sack champion winning the inaugural Deacon Jones Award.
As for contract talks, Hilton and Castonzo are entering the final years of their deals. Luck is still signed through 2016, although speculation has centered on the team extending his contract some time before the 2016 season.
“Nothing to report there,” the owner said. “Obviously some players like possibly T.Y. or Anthony Castonzo . . . again, we’d like to make some progress, possibly get something done sooner than later. It obviously takes both sides to come to a sort of compromised agreement. I think we’re optimistic.”
He reiterated the team’s belief, including general manager Ryan Grigson and Pagano, is to keep the quality players they select.
“Draft great players, keep great players,” Irsay said. “We’ve kept great players into their second contracts. Obviously Reggie (Wayne), Robert Mathis, (Dwight) Freeney, the list is long. And we want to be able to do that.”
He again mentioned Hilton, who is coming off his first Pro Bowl season, and said, “I do expect something to get done there eventually, for sure.”
The same was said for Pagano, who is also entering a contract year, as well as Luck. He acknowledged the team tried to extend the head coach’s contract in the offseason but couldn’t come up with an extension.
He repeated an obvious assurance about Luck, his three-time Pro Bowl passer, “There’s nothing right now on Andrew. Again, we know we’re going to get him done. He’s going to be here for a very long time.”
The Colts don’t have salary cap room to do that now, but obviously will be faced with several key decisions as soon as the upcoming season ends.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.