Indianapolis Colts are expected to challenge for the Super Bowl title again this season, but to claim the Lombardi Trophy the Colts will have to have to all of their key players playing to the best of their ability.
The Colts suffered a heavy 45-7 defeat to the New England Patriots in January in a game which showed how fragile Indianapolis's defensive line can be when pressurized by a dominant offensive line.
Indianapolis's defensive line was hindered by the season-ending injury to Robert Mathis last year. Whilst Mathis plays at the linebacker position, his presence - or lack thereof - negatively affected the Colts' D-line and led to their playoff demise.
Mathis suffered a torn Achilles tendon during a private workout last September, and in March, Colts owner Jim Irsay claimed that the dominant player would not be back in action until November.
However, it has been revealed that the proclamation was a worst-case scenario, with Mathis himself explaining on Monday that his recovery is going very well.
"I said it. I meant it. I'll be back by September," Mathis told WTHR-TV in Indianapolis, according to NFL.com. "I'm back running. Training and rehab (are) full swing.
"I'm ahead of schedule and just trying to stay ahead of it. Guys view me as their leader and I'm busting my hump to get back out there with them because it wasn't easy to sit back and watch them play without me."
Won't be the same
Mathis's proclamation is certainly optimistic, but there is no telling whether the 34-year-old returns as the same explosive player. Indianapolis should eventually get him back - perhaps after a PUP list trip - but the Colts shouldn't expect the same player who made 19.5 sacks in 2013.