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Robert Mathis Suspended: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

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Robert Mathis Suspended: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction
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Updates from Wednesday, May 21

Robert Mathis apologized to his teammates on Wednesday for his suspension (via Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star:

His message: "Sorry, and I'll be back.''

Mathis added his teammates "understand my stance. (There are) lots of fans. Great support.

"I want to move past it."

Mathis, the NFL's reigning sack champion, tested positive for the drug Clomid, which is on the league's banned substance list. He insisted he took it late last year to help conceive another child.

Trouble is, he never checked with the league, union or the Colts to determine if the drug was allowed.

"I shouldn't have (done) it,'' Mathis said. "My bad. There's no question I'd like a re-do, but I can't take it back.''

Updates from Monday, May 19

NBC's Michael David Smith provided a statement from Robert Mathis' agent, Hadley Englehard, who appeared on ESPN's Mike and Mike to respond to the NFL's statement regarding his client:

They released a statement, which the NFL never does, and even in their statement, they’re misleading the public.

[...]

There’s many drugs that are not FDA approved for certain things and are used for other things, and the doctor, in direct and cross examination, even talked about that: He’s been using this as a fertility drug for 20-plus years. There’s not one shred of evidence, there’s not one shred of testimony, that says anything but, Robert used it not for anything but fertility. He used it for a short period of time, 10 to 12 days, once he found out his wife was pregnant he stopped taking it. He has the left over medication from it. There is not one shred of evidence that he used it for other than fertility.

Smith later provided a statement from NFL’s Senior V.P. of labor policy and government affairs, Adolpho Birch, responding to Englehard's comments on ESPN's Mike & Mike:

The policy is crystal clear that the player is responsible for what is in his body — that’s by design. That’s because of the union and the league agreeing that we don’t want to have to make those sorts of decisions. We don’t want to have to judge whether or not this is a reasonable story, this is an unreasonable story, this claim is correct, this claim is incorrect. We want to be able to treat everyone consistently and make sure that first and foremost, we are applying that policy in a way that we feel works to ensure that we eliminate the threat of these types of substances and deter the use of these types of substances in our game.

[...]

We are limited in what we can talk about with respect to particular cases. Frankly, I think this is part of the reason we’ve been, as a league, trying to convince the union that we need to be able to talk about particular cases more, particularly when there are public statements made.

 

Updates from Saturday, May 17

Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio passed along a statement from the NFL, who responded to Robert Mathis' agent's claims:

As Mr. Mathis’s agent acknowledged today, his client failed to follow the protocols in the policy that the NFL and NFLPA agreed upon to address precisely these kinds of claims. That policy also prescribes the disciplinary consequences of a positive test.  The policy does not provide — nor should it provide — for the Commissioner to override the policy’s procedures and assess discipline on an after-the-fact, ad hoc basis. Here Mr. Mathis actually withdrew his appeal and accepted discipline at the union’s suggestion. His hearing took place only after the Players Association requested that the appeal be reinstated.

The drug for which Mr. Mathis tested positive is not approved by the FDA for fertility in males and is a performance-enhancing drug that has been prohibited for years. Importantly, Mr. Mathis did not consult with the policy’s Independent Administrator, a physician jointly approved by the NFL and NFL Players Association. Nor did he consult with his team doctor, the team’s training staff, the NFLPA, the league office or the hotline established under the policy to give confidential information to players. Each of these sources would have warned against using this substance.

A cornerstone of the program is that a player is responsible for what is in his body. Consistent application of the policy’s procedures is critical to the integrity of the program.

Mike Chappell of the Indy Star gathered Chuck Pagano's thoughts on Mathis:

 

Original Text

The Indianapolis Colts were dealt a huge blow on Friday, as Pro Bowl linebacker Robert Mathis will have to serve a four-game suspension to start the 2014 season.

Adam Caplan of NFL.com reported the news:

Mathis released a statement of his own about the suspension, via EAG Sports Management:

It is difficult for me to address the circumstances surrounding this suspension because they involve very personal medical information, but it is very important to me that my fans, particularly young people, understand what did and did not occur.

Like many families, my wife and I faced fertility challenges, and I sought medical assistance. I specifically asked the doctor if the medication he prescribed for me would present a problem for NFL drug testing, and unfortunately, he incorrectly told me that 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. The union has worked very closely with me to present all of the facts and medical records for consideration of discipline that does not include a suspension because of the unique facts of my case, but the Commissioner refused the request.

Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes Mathis' return date:

Following the announcement, the Colts released a statement, per NFL.com:

We have learned that Robert Mathis will be required to serve a four game suspension under the League’s policy on prohibited substances. We recognize the extreme seriousness of this matter and will honor the confidentiality requirements of the League’s program.

We nevertheless wish to assure Robert and our fans that he remains an honored and cherished member of the Colts family and that we support him as he deals with this difficult challenge.

Albert Breer of NFL.com provides more details after Mathis' statement:

The four-game suspension comes on the heels of Mathis' best season in Indianapolis. The 33-year-old totaled 59 tackles, 19.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles in 2013, helping the team return to the playoffs for a second straight season.

ESPN's Numbers Never Lie takes a look at his season in comparison to previous years in Indy:

This means the Colts defense will be without its biggest playmaker for the start of the season, barring a successful appeal. On a mostly young defense, Mathis not only provided huge statistics, but also leadership following Dwight Freeney's departure.

Adam Schefter of ESPN provides a look at the Colts' schedule to start the season: 

While the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans might not pose a huge threat, the other two opponents will be even more difficult without the elite pass-rusher.

Facing Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos just before the Philadelphia Eagles' pass-happy offense will be a tough task for Indianapolis. Though Mathis clearly made a mistake, the Colts now have to go through the offseason with the knowledge that he won't be in pads when the season starts.

 

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