- Associated Press - Thursday, October 2, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Colts linebacker Robert Mathis has taken down the “Gone Fishin’” sign from inside his locker and is getting settled into his two new jobs - full-time rehab patient, part-time assistant coach.

The 33-year-old defending NFL sacks champion knows it will be a long, arduous journey back.

Mathis missed the first four games this season for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy and now will miss the remaining 12 after tearing his left Achilles’ tendon during a workout in Atlanta while he was away from the team. Team doctors, Mathis said, have told him a full recovery will take six months from the injury.

“I’ll be back faster,” he said in his first public comments since the injury. “I like to think I’m a fast healer.”

Mathis only said he was injured doing a workout routine that he has been doing for years.

He also has a penchant for defying the odds.

When the Colts traded up to get the former Alabama A&M; star in the fifth round of the 2003 draft, critics said he was too small to hold up in the league. Instead, he emerged as a perennial Pro Bowl defensive end opposite longtime friend and teammate Dwight Freeney. He proved the critics wrong again when he became just as effective a pass rusher after moving to outside linebacker in 2012.

When Freeney left for San Diego after the 2012 season, many of the doubters figured Mathis’ numbers would drop. But Mathis set a franchise record with a league-leading 19½ sacks to become the first winner of the Deacon Jones Award.

Not much has gone right on the football field since. The Colts were ousted by longtime rival New England in last year’s playoffs. Mathis found out about his suspension in May, and sustained the worst injury of his 12-year career in early September.

Mathis returned from the suspension Monday and has been seen getting around in a protective walking boot, watching practice from the sideline and helping mentor younger teammates.

“There’s some things that he’s told me, that he’s told the young guys, it’s actually very good,” defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said “Not everybody is Robert, but I’m saying from the standpoint of he understands pass rush, he understands how to practice to pass rush, and, number two, during the game he knows how to pass rush.”

But the Colts (2-2) clearly believe their best pass-rusher will return to his usually menacing ways.

On Monday, the team announced it had agreed to a one-year contract extension with the franchise’s career sacks leader, a move that could keep Mathis in town through the 2016 season.

And Mathis intends to live up to his end of the deal.

“They love me. I love them,” Mathis said. “Like I said, they have a respect for what I’ve done here. There’s no secret that I love being here, so it’s just a win-win situation.”


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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