Jim Irsay Discusses Colts, Mathis’ September Return
By Evan Reller
During last night’s “football” game, where fans paid full price to watch the Indianapolis Colts lost 9-6 to the Cincinnati Bengals, team owner Jim Irsay did a lengthy live interview with the broadcast crew of Don Fisher and Rick Venturi. Irsay covered a wide range of topics from his life influences to the players fighting for a spot on his team’s roster.
Most interesting were Irsay’s comments on Robert Mathis. Earlier in the year, Irsay said it could be as late as November before fans saw the franchise sack leader return to the field. But last night’s comments suggest otherwise:
"“Robert Mathis is really progressing well, really progressing well on his recovery. 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 Gore and Johnson to an already good football team.”"
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Mathis returned to practice last week and hasn’t had any setbacks. He has said all along that he’ll be ready by opening day and replied with a simple “yes” when asked about playing against the Bills next weekend. If Irsay is implying that fans will watch Mathis this month, that means he’ll be ready by at least Week 2 when the Colts host the Jets for Sunday Night Football. That is the only home September game for the Colts.
When asked about the expectations for the season, Irsay stated his awareness and proceeded to speak in cliches.
"“I think what really excites me is when you look at what we accomplished last year and then you see what we added. Of course, a lot gets held back in preseason, (Frank) Gore didn’t play a lot, obviously. I think we have an outstanding chance to have a really special team. Nothing is guaranteed. We are 0-0 starting. There’s a lot of preseason hype. We know about it. We have to block that out and play one play at a time.”"
Recently there have been reports about friction between coach Chuck Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson. It has gone so far as to spark a debate about which one is at fault when this team fails to perform or live up to expectations. Irsay went on at length about their relationship, his role, and insisted that it wasn’t and issue.
"“My responsibility is to really get Ryan (Grigson) and Chuck really functioning at a full level in making sound decisions. I don’t have the time like they do, particularly like Ryan to look at players. As an owner and a former scout, too, one thing you know is if you don’t have a chance to really study a guy, you are not going to make a call from a distance. I am hands off in that degree but I also try to encourage, hear the thinking that eventually goes into when you take someone like (Phillip) Dorsett, like we did, which surprised some people. Again, you take the best player on the board. The draft dictates to you, not the other way around. We thought he was a special player being there.“I really feel good about the energy that Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano have together. It’s false for anyone to say that there’s friction there. There isn’t friction there, honestly. They work really well together. They have great debates but they always come out respecting each other, trying to help each other, knowing that if they put themselves in each other’s shoes, in other words, not over stepping their grounds, either one of them. We have a great working combination there. It’s shown obviously in the last three years. We are at an important point right now in the franchise, obviously, and we would love to make a goal of it to get home field advantage. We don’t shy away from that, but it’s one game at a time.”"
A few things, first Irsay wasn’t specifically asked about this rift and brought it up anyway. He went out of his way to suggest that Pagano and Grigson are a good team. Second, why would he ever want to confirm the story that Bob Kravitz wrote? That would create an unnecessary distraction for the team to deal with as they head into the season.
You can find a full transcript of Irsay’s interview here.