Robert Mathis Sacked By Poor Decision
By Zachary Doleiden
NFL scouts said he was too small. They also said the level of competition he faced while playing his college ball at Alabama A&M was a bit lacking. He was not worthy of a high draft pick.
Prior to the 2003 draft, no one believed that Robert Mathis would one day play at a Pro Bowl level, let alone have a career that could warrant Hall of Fame consideration when all is said and done – except maybe the Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts took a chance on the undersized Mathis with the 138th overall pick that year, salivating at the thought of pairing him up with a pass-rushing maestro like Dwight Freeney on the defensive line. And ever since becoming an everyday starter in 2006, Mathis has shown that the choice to take him was a wise one.
Mathis quickly made a name for himself as a playmaker on defense, forcing fumbles and sacking the opposing quarterback often and without reservation. Not even a switch to the 3-4 defense and a move to linebacker under new head coach Chuck Pagano could slow him down, as Mathis recorded eight sacks in 2012 before dropping quarterbacks a NFL-leading 19.5 times in 2013. This impressive production earned him the league’s inaugural Deacon Jones Award, which goes to the player with the most sacks in a season.
But the question was raised recently as to whether or not the former fifth-round pick had some help during his ascension as one of the NFL’s most accomplished sack artists.
In mid-May, Mathis was suspended by the league for the first four games of the 2014 season for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy – something Mathis attributes to a fertility drug he was taking in an attempt to expand his family with his wife.
However, NFL spokesperson Greg Aiello said in a statement obtained by NFL Media’s Albert Breer that the drug in question is, “not approved by the FDA for fertility in males and is a performance-enhancing drug that has been prohibited for years.”
But why would Mathis, a player who has continually improved and impressed over the years, all of a sudden require the use of PEDs?
Sure, he isn’t getting any younger and the NFL is a results-driven business, but it just doesn’t add up, especially since Mathis passed two earlier drug tests that season.
“He’s not a person who would ever consider taking a PED,” Mathis’ agent Hadley Englehard told reporters. “What happened here is, in trying to keep something very personal private, he failed to take a very important step (checking with the league office).”
So who is telling the truth here exactly?
It has become known that Mathis and his wife have had trouble conceiving in the past, and it is not surprising to me that he would like to keep this part of his life private. Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star reported that Mathis’ physician prescribed the drug to his patient, and that Mathis’ wife was unable to take the drug due to “a medical condition that would make multiple births extremely dangerous.”
Mathis asked his physician if his taking the fertility drug would create a problem with the NFL and was told it would not.
“I made the mistake of not calling the NFL or NFLPA to double check before I took the medication at the end of last season,” Mathis said in a statement. “I hope that my fans will understand the unique circumstances involved here and continue to know that I am a man of integrity who would never intentionally circumvent the performance enhancing substance policy...”
At the end of the day, I believe Mathis – at least I want to. He, like the entire Colts organization, is big into family and if prescribed a fertility drug that could help make it possible to expand one’s family, I can see why it could be easy to get caught up in all the emotions of the moment.
With that said, Mathis still should have composed himself after the initial excitement and contacted the league just to make sure he wasn’t going to be putting anything into his body that would jeopardize his playing time. Because he failed to do so, the Colts will be without their prized pass rusher for contests against the high-octane offenses of the Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles, as well as division foes in the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans.
Mathis has done his fair share of damage on the field over the course of his 11-year career, but perhaps not as much as he may have done to his own team should Indianapolis get off to a rough start in 2014.