When will outside linebacker Robert Mathis be ready to play again?
Just ask Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay. Actually, you don't need to ask him. He's targeted the Colts' Sept. 21 home opener against the New York Jets at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Irsay visited the Fox-59 TV booth during Thursday night's Colts preseason finale against the Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium and brought up the oft-discussed Mathis, who missed last season with a left Achilles tendon tear.
"Robert Mathis is really progressing well, really progressing well on his recovery," Irsay said. "It's incredibly exciting. I see him in September playing. I see him in this building, in September, playing. With the way his progress is going, I don't see anything slowing him down and you know what a boost that would be, to have the likes of a guy like Mathis, joining (Frank) Gore and (Andre) Johnson to an already good football team."
The Colts have only one home game in September, so Irsay wasn't hiding the expected timetable.
During training camp, the owner had suggested his 34-year-old franchise sack leader might not be able to suit up until late September or early October. That was a more favorable timetable than when Irsay had suggested November during owner's meetings in March.
Despite the Colts always talking about being cautious, Mathis has maintained he would be ready for Week 1 at the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 13. The fact that the Colts play their second game on Monday Night Football gives No. 98 a little more time as well as a national stage to welcome him back.
Head coach Chuck Pagano has left the door open on the possibility that Mathis could be ready for the season opener. Mathis was activated off PUP a week ago and has been practicing with the team for the first time in a year.
Mathis missed the first four games of last season to serve a four-game NFL suspension for violating the performance-enhancing drugs policy. He suffered the injury while working out at home in Atlanta.
There's no denying his return will be a boost to a defense already missing a key cog in defensive tackle Arthur Jones, who will need ankle surgery and could miss at least half of the regular season. Mathis, who has 111 career sacks, led the NFL with 19.5 sacks in 2013.
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