Raiders

Five-time Pro Bowl DE Mathis plans to retire after Colts' season finale

Five-time Pro Bowl DE Mathis plans to retire after Colts' season finale

INDIANAPOLIS -- When Robert Mathis speaks, the Indianapolis Colts listen. Every time.

It's a right the outside linebacker earned by playing 14 productive NFL seasons - all with the same team, all with the same passion, all with the same penchant for putting quarterbacks on the ground.

So when he finished practice Friday and gathered his teammates, Mathis stood in the center and made his announcement quickly and clearly: Sunday's season finale against Jacksonville will be his last game. He made it official a short time later in an emotional news conference.

"This will be 98's last game," he said.

Mathis had been around long enough to know how fickle the football business can be.

He's seen the Colts let some of his closest friends - Dwight Freeney, Reggie Wayne and Antoine Bethea - walk away in free agency. He remembers Hall of Fame receiver Marvin Harrison failing to get a call when Indy didn't re-sign him after 2008. And he'll never forget the mind-blowing moment on March 7, 2012 when team owner Jim Irsay and Peyton Manning tearfully announced they were parting ways.

If it can happen to them, Mathis knows it can happen to anyone.

And at age 35, the signs were all there that he could be next big game to hit the street.

After missing 13 games in his first 11 pro seasons, Mathis has missed 19 over the last three, including the entire 2014 season - the first four to serve a performance enhancers suspension for what he claimed was a banned fertility drug, the last 12 after tearing his Achilles tendon.

His stats have taken a hit, too.

From 2004 through 2013, Mathis never had fewer than seven sacks or 35 tackles in a season. Those numbers dropped to seven sacks and 24 tackles in 2015 and four sacks and 22 tackles this season. He's never complained..

So Mathis decided to leave the game on his own terms.

"Rob has nothing more to prove, he's such a damn good football player," kicker Adam Vinatieri said. "He's just a hard-working dude, a silent warrior."

That's how Mathis wants to be remembered. Yes, he can be pithy and poignant, with succinct and strongly worded one-liners, but he'd rather just work.

Not many pass rushers have done it better than the Atlanta native, who almost didn't get a chance to prove himself.

Back in 2003, Mathis remembers many scouts downgrading his draft-day stock because they thought he was too small, too slow and too untested to become a key player in the NFL. Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian and the Colts' scouts valued something else in the undersized Alabama A&M product. It didn't take long to find out they were right.

After Polian traded Indy's 2014 fourth-round draft pick to Houston for an extra fifth-rounder in 2013, he wasted no time selecting Mathis with the 138th overall pick despite coach Tony Dungy's contention the price may have been too steep. Turns out, the Colts got a steal.

"We saw an explosive guy, a game-changing player who we thought could play two positions," Polian said. "You could see it almost from the first time he got on the field. He was quiet - except when he put the uniform on and then everyone knew he was around."

Mathis made sure nobody ever overlooked him again.

His resume includes six consecutive Pro Bowl appearances; two Super Bowl appearances with one world championship; the Colts' career record for sacks (122); the 2013 league sacks title (19½); and his trademark tomahawk chop that has forced a league-high 51 fumbles since 2003.

Numbers only tell part of the tale.

"I think pound for pound, he is probably the best pass rusher ever," Colts linebacker Erik Walden said. "You don't find many guys doing it from both sides. He can line up anywhere and get to the quarterback."

Yet Mathis' contributions inside the team complex go far beyond stats.

Tight end Dwayne Allen calls Mathis a treasure trove of information. Coach Chuck Pagano calls him a model of success. Everyone else calls Mathis captain.

But the most apt description might be this: a winner.

"We wouldn't be sitting where we are today and had the success that we have had over the last five years without that guy," Pagano said. "It's a debt I cannot repay. I have the utmost respect for him, not only as a football player, but as a man, father, husband and a human being. All that he does inside this building and all that he does outside this building for the community, he is a warrior. They don't make them like that.

"I guarantee he has walked in this building every single day for 14 years and walked into that locker room and looked up and saw his nameplate still up there and a jersey number still up there and said, 'I'm going to die before I let somebody take this from me.'"

He just never had to say it aloud - until Friday.

"The game of football," he said, "has been like my best friend."

Mike Mayock's thought on Raiders' last three first-round draft picks

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USATSI

Mike Mayock's thought on Raiders' last three first-round draft picks

Mike Mayock is one of the most respected minds in the NFL Draft community.

When he was a draft analyst for NFL Network, his word was gospel. Now, the Raiders get to benefit from his wisdom.

So, what did Mayock think of the Raiders last three first-round drafts? We're glad you asked.

In 2016, the Raiders selected West Virginia safety Karl Joseph with the No. 14 overall pick. He struggled during his first two seasons, but 2018 was seen as a breakout campaign for the 25-year-old.

Here's what Mayock wrote about Joseph when the 2016 NFL draft had concluded:

"With his range, toughness and ability to drop down in the slot and cover man, he's like a poor man's Earl Thomas. He says he models his game after Brian Dawkins. Some say he's much like Bob Sanders. This is a dynamic playmaker."

Joseph certainly hasn't lived up to the Earl Thomas comparison. Thomas is a three-time First Team All-Pro. After three seasons, Joseph isn't at that level yet.

The next year, the Raiders addressed the secondary again, picking Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley at No. 24. It was a risky pick due to the baggage that came along with Conley. Just before the draft, he was accused of rape.

Injuries cost him most of his rookie campaign, but Conley played in 15 games in 2018, and finished with three interceptions and 37 total tackles.

At the time, Mayock focused on Conley's legal troubles when he wrote this:

"You can't make that pick and be wrong because your owner is gonna hold you accountable for it if this kid ends up with any kind of jail time."

Two years later, Reggie McKenzie is out as general manager.

Last year, the Raiders wanted Mike McGlinchey at No. 10, but the 49ers snagged him at No. 9. So Oakland traded the No. 10 pick to Arizona No. 15 and two later picks. They used the No. 15 pick to select UCLA offensive lineman Kolton Miller.

Miller had his ups and downs during the 2018 season. At one point late in the season, he was leading the league in sacks allowed. But big things are still expected from him, and some pressure will taken off Miller with the addition of high-priced free agent Trent Brown.

Here's what Mayock wrote about Miller at this time last year.

"They get the No. 2 offensive tackle in this draft to put behind Donald Penn, the incumbent left tackle. He can start on the right side. He only answered the bell 23 times in three years. Durability is a concern."

[RELATED: Mock draft has Raiders trading up for a QB]

Miller erased any concern about his durability by starting all 16 games as a rookie.

Now, instead of critiquing the Raiders draft class, Mayock is in charge picking the players others will critique.

2019 NFL mock draft: Analyst has Raiders trading up to No. 2 for ... a QB

2019 NFL mock draft: Analyst has Raiders trading up to No. 2 for ... a QB

The 2019 NFL Draft is just around the corner, and we hope you've soaked in as many mocks as you can possibly handle. If not, how about a game-changing one?

NFL.com's Chad Reuter's devised a mock that had some "selections that may be off the beaten path." Basically, a mock that would shake things up -- which we love.

This included five first-round trades, one of which has the Raiders projected to move up to take ...  a quarterback.

"Projected trade with the 49ers. Jon Gruden gets his quarterback [Drew Lock] by moving up two spots," Reuter writes. "Gruden coached Lock at the Senior Bowl, and it's easy to see him appreciating the former Missouri quarterback's demeanor and physical tools. If he doesn't move up to get him, Miami or Denver could make a deal with the Jets to land the Mizzou QB."

The Raiders, as you know, have Derek Carr pegged as the starter next season, but newly hired general manager Mike Mayock mentioned that as much as they love Carr, the team is "going to do all of their due diligence." They complimented the three-time Pro-Bowler, but Mayock made it clear that at that position, and every other position if they found someone they liked better and "had bigger upside," then they would do what they need to do.

[RELATED: Raiders send scouts home over lack of trust]

It was also reported the Raiders are "super impressed" with Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback Dwayne Haskins.

All moves appear to be on the table.