The offseason was about Robert Mathis spending time with family, specifically, being a dad to his three children.
Now that the Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker is back to work during offseason training activities, he’s thinking about his NFL future and how he could mentor the team’s young pass rushers.
Mathis, who turned 35 in February and is entering the final year of his contract, tweeted Monday he would be interested in signing a contract extension for 2017 to continue to be a defensive leader. He’s a year removed from 10 surgeries to repair and clean up infections in a left Achilles tendon tear that cost him 2014.
The more he played last season, the stronger the Colts’ all-time sack leader became. He started the last 10 games, registering six of his seven sacks and 17 of his 20 total tackles.
The reality is the Colts will probably play wait and see with the 14th-year pro, who has 118 career sacks. If Mathis is still a capable pass rusher in 2016, the only team he’s ever known would undoubtedly welcome him back for at least one more year. He counts $5 million toward the salary cap, which ranks eighth on the team.
Unlike last offseason, when the tedious routine of rehabilitation meant his body was still behind others in training, he’s healthy this year and eager to prove he’s got a lot of game left.
“I feel great,” Mathis said. “I let my body heal up. My leg feels great. My body feels great, so I’m ready to get out there.”
The Colts’ pass rush is one of the biggest question marks for the upcoming season. A blitzing 3-4 defense predicated on pressuring the pocket generated just 35 sacks, which tied for 22nd. That’s six fewer than the year before, when Mathis didn’t play a game.
An older Colts defense welcomes a new coordinator in Ted Monachino, who has said the goal is to field an attacking unit. Gone is outside linebacker Jonathan Newsome, who led the team in sacks in 2014 but was recently released after a marijuana possession arrest. Aging outside linebacker Trent Cole, 33, restructured his contract and accepted a pay cut to return after generating just three sacks in his first season with the Colts.
It’s a defense that needs some new blood to learn from the likes of Mathis, who said his gradual recovery during the 2015 season was expected.
“The head trainer said as the season progresses, you’ll get stronger and that’s how it was,” he said. “I felt great at the end of the season and flows into this season.
“Typically anything from the waist down, it’s a year removed and you’re back to feeling yourself. We got last season out of the way so we just look forward to this season.”
And who knows, perhaps 2017, too.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.