Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Sports

May 18, 2014

Pagano remains upbeat

Colts coach says team will survive Mathis' suspension

INDIANAPOLIS — Jonathan Newsome was so far ahead of the football, he almost intercepted it.

The Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker leapt near the line of scrimmage during Saturday’s roookie mini-camp practice and got both hands on a pass attempt before knocking it to the ground.

As he walked back to the huddle, Newsome quickly slapped hands with inside linebacker Andrew Jackson. Then he went back to work.

The fifth-round pick out of Ball State is among a handful of players who will receive greater attention in the coming weeks following Friday’s announcement that NFL sack champion Robert Mathis will be suspended for the first four games of the regular season.

Newsome anticipated questions about the situation would be coming his way, but he vowed not let anything affect him.

“All I can say is that we’re going to hold [Mathis] down as far as being a teammate and all that,” Newsome said at his locker before practice. “But it doesn’t affect my approach. I’ve got the same approach I had before and that was to go out here and take somebody’s spot. So same thing.”

Somebody quickly needs to step into Mathis’ role, because his absence is certain to affect the team. The 12th-year veteran’s 19.5 sacks represented 46.4 percent of the Colts’ total last season. Inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman’s 5.5 sacks were second on the team, and only defensive end Cory Redding (4.5) finished with more than three amongst the rest of the roster.

But this is a team all too familiar with adversity. Coach Chuck Pagano missed 12 games during the 2012 season while battling leukemia, and wide receiver Reggie Wayne sat out the final nine regular season games last year after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament. Indianapolis finished 11-5 and made the playoffs in both seasons.

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