Robert Mathis’ playing career over, but he’s still around Colts
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Robert Mathis put the finishing touches on a decorated career Jan. 1 by dragging down Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles for a sack – No. 123 – in the Indianapolis Colts’ regular-season finale.
Two days earlier, the team’s career sack leader had announced his retirement after 14 seasons, six Pro Bowls, a pair of Super Bowl appearances and one world championship.
So, what to do post-NFL?
More football, of course.
As the Colts moved past a disappointing 2016 and set their sights on the upcoming season, a familiar face appeared at their door.
“He came to us right after the season,’’ defensive coordinator Ted Monachino said.
Mathis’ request was simple.
What can I do to help?
“We just sent him to work on it and he went and talked with everybody he needed to talk to and got it approved and here he is, here he comes,’’ Monachino explained of the process that led to Mathis transitioning from sackmaster to sack instructor.
Mathis, 36, and not ready to walk away from a sport that’s been so much a part of his DNA for so long, is serving as a volunteer coach with the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2003 draft.
“I’ve been around the team pretty much every day,’’ Mathis said last week during an appearance on FOX Sports 97.5’s Jake Query and Derek Schultz radio show.
Family remains paramount with Mathis. After spending the morning and early afternoon at the Colts’ complex, it’s family time with wife, Brandi, and their children.
Mathis made it clear he has no desire to pursue a career as a coach, primarily because of the time it would require.
“I’m positive about that,’’ he said. “I want to maximize my time with my family.
“But I definitely want to be around the game in some shape . . . and ideally it would be my team that I’ve been a part of for 14 years.’’
Monachino welcomed the input from such an accomplished source. Mathis’ 123 sacks rank 17th in NFL history. He holds the league record with 47 forced fumbles off sacks.
The Colts have lacked a legitimate pass rush since 2013 when Mathis set a franchise record and led the NFL with 19.5 sacks. They finished in the middle of the pack last season with 33, but too often consistent pressure on the quarterback was missing.
General manager Chris Ballard has spent the offseason addressing a defense that ranked 30th in 2016. Pass-rush potential comes in the form of linebackers Jabaal Sheard and John Simon and nose tackle Johnathan Hankins.
Sheard has listened as Mathis has shared his experience.
“You have guys like Mathis who have been around the league for a long time and done it well,’’ Sheard said. “I don’t think he’s only going to help me, I think he’s going to help our whole defensive line, all our rushers.’’
“He does a nice job,’’ Monachino said of Mathis. “He’s a good communicator. He’s sharp. He thinks ahead. He sees the game through a barn door instead of through a straw.
“Any time you can learn from a master, it’s a good thing.’’