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Colts open camp with Mathis, Thomas on PUP

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ANDERSON, Ind. — With the Indianapolis Colts taking the field for their first training camp practices Sunday, head coach Chuck Pagano stated the obvious: Don’t expect to see outside linebacker Robert Mathis or offensive guard Donald Thomas on the practice field any time soon.

Mathis is recovering from a torn Achilles that forced him to miss the final 12 games of the regular season in 2014. Thomas, meanwhile, has been sidelined for most of his Colts career with quad and biceps injuries since signing as a veteran free agent with the team in 2013.

Both were placed on Indianapolis’ physically unable to perform list. Rookie cornerback Josh Mitchell, meanwhile, is on the Colts’ reserve/injured list.

“(Mathis and Thomas) will be week to week,” Pagano said, opting not to elaborate on a possible return date for either player. Still, it’s clear that the Colts are not pushing Mathis to make a quick return to the field.

“I’d think we would be foolish not to consider (Mathis’ age and the type of injury he suffered) It would be stupid on our part to say, ‘You’re healthy, you’ve been cleared’ and then throw him to the wolves. We’ve got to be very, very smart with Robert. He knows that,” the Colts coach said.

“The lines of communication are open. We’ve just got to stick to the process and be patient. Everybody’s chomping at the bit. (The media) is chomping at the bit, Robert’s chomping at the bit, the coaches are chomping at the bit. But the best plan is to just slow down. We’ve got a long way to go and it’s a long season.”

Running back Vick Ballard (knee/Achilles) and inside linebacker Nate Irving (knee) have both been cleared to practice, although they will be brought along slowly by team medical personnel.

Ballard has not played since the opening game of the 2013 season. He was hurt again last year on the second day of training camp.

“We’re going to be very, very smart. He’s been cleared. Obviously he’s worked his tail off (to get back on the practice field). He’s been on one heck of a journey trying to get back,” Pagano said. “To his credit, it takes a ton of perseverance and determination and grit to get back from what he’s been through. So we have to be very, very careful about how we introduce him back to football.

“We’ll keep an eye on the number of reps that he takes through individual period based on our trainers and doctors. They’ll keep an eye on him. We’ll start him out real slow. We’ll introduce him real slow and then based on how he feels, the lines of communication will be open between the coaches, the trainers and Vick.”

As a rookie in 2012, Ballard was impressive as he rushed for a team-high 814 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught 17 passes for an additional 152 yards and one TD, that one coming on the winning score in an overtime win at Tennessee.

“How could you not (be pulling for the running back to make a full return)? Love that kid. In 2012, he was a warrior. He’s a great player and a great teammate,” Pagano said.

“He’s a foxhole buddy. You want to take him downtown with you because you know he’s got your back. You feel for everybody. You hate to see anybody get hurt.”


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