That was his adjective to describe how he was feeling Thursday in his rehabilitation from a torn Achilles tendon.
The six-time Pro Bowl star said it twice, then elaborated, “We’re making big strides, clearing a lot of hurdles and I’m very encouraged.”
He’s literally taking it one step at a time, which means being cautious, and that’s why he didn’t participate in offseason training activities or mini-camp, which concluded Thursday at the team complex. That’s also why he probably won’t be full go, as owner Jim Irsay suggested Wednesday, when the team starts training camp Aug. 1 at Anderson University.
As Mathis has said recently, his focus is on being ready for the Colts’ season opener Sept. 13 at the Buffalo Bills.
“Game one vs. Buffalo,” he said, when asked what his mind-set is going to be.
He’s registered 111 sacks in 11 seasons, and the last time he was on the field, he led the NFL with 19.5 sacks in 2013. Then came 2014, a season lost for four games to a league suspension and then the last 12 due to the Achilles injury suffered while working out in his hometown of Atlanta.
“It’s frustrating because I’m used to going 100 miles an hour or whatever,” said Mathis, 34. “Just have to be smart. I’m at the stage of my career where hey, smart (isn’t) hard.”
Head coach Chuck Pagano reiterated the uncertainty about if Mathis will return to his old form, but knowing the player’s work ethic, he’s optimistic.
“I’m not Kreskin or Nostradamus. I don’t know. Time will tell,” Pagano said. “I’m not trying to be a jokester. I don’t know. If anybody can do it, I’m putting my money on him.”
Trent Cole and Erik Walden have been working as starting outside linebackers with second-year pro Jonathan Newsome and Cam Johnson rotating in as backups. Outside linebacker Bjoern Werner, a former first-round draft choice, has been on the mend.
“We really haven’t ever envisioned him not being available at some point,” Pagano said. “You guys know Robert as well as I know Robert. If I’m a betting man, I’m putting my money on him.”
Mathis says he’s motivated by doubters. That’s the way it’s always been for him, dating back to when he was an unknown fifth round draft choice out of Alabama A&M.
“It’s all media guys like you saying I’m 34 and can’t do it,” he said.
He senses the Colts have something special in store for 2015. He’s set his mind to be a part of it.
“I love it,” Mathis said. “We’ve got a rotation and we’re deep, man. I dare say we’re three-deep in every position. Whoever hits the field is expected to be a playmaker. A balanced team, those are normally the most successful teams.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.