- Mike Wells, ESPN Staff Writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Listen to members of the Indianapolis Colts talk and the common theme coming out their mouths is having people who fit in with their "horseshoe" tradition.
For so long, being in the "horseshoe" family meant staying out of trouble, proudly representing the organization and being a part of their winning tradition.
That "horseshoe" image has taken a substantial hit this offseason with two of the Colts' leaders at the forefront of the problems. If owner Jim Irsay's arrest in March wasn't embarrassing enough, Friday's four-game suspension of pass-rush specialist Robert Mathis for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances further put the Colts in a negative light.
Mathis immediately released a statement following the announcement of his suspension that said he tested positive for a fertility drug. He and his wife are expecting a daughter in the fall.
The mistake Mathis made, which he acknowledged in the statement, is that he failed to check with the NFL or the NFL Players Association to see if what he was taking was illegal.
That's a mistake players should not make, especially a veteran like Mathis.
This is the second straight year that the Colts will be missing a player at the start of the season. Receiver LaVon Brazill and tight end Weslye Saunders were suspended for the first four and eight games, respectively, for not following the league's substance-abuse policies.
Indianapolis isn't done with being disciplined.
Commissioner Roger Goodell still has to determine how he will handle Irsay following his arrest for allegedly operating a vehicle while intoxicated in March. He faces four felony counts of possession of a controlled substance. Irsay took part in the team's draft last week and will be in Atlanta for the NFL owners meetings next week after spending time in a rehabilitation facility immediately following his arrest.
There's little doubt Goodell will discipline Irsay. In March, during the league's owners meetings in Orlando, Florida, Goodell said the Colts owner is subject to league discipline for his arrest but would wait "to understand the facts" before making a decision.
The Colts will be able to get by without Irsay if Goodell fines and suspends him as expected because the franchise is in capable hands with general manager Ryan Grigson on the football side and chief operating officer Pete Ward on the business side.
The same can't be said about the Colts' defense without Mathis.
If facing Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos and the Philadelphia Eagles in the first two weeks of the season wasn't difficult enough already, now Indianapolis has to figure out a way to slow down those two offenses without the player responsible for 46 percent of their sacks (19.5) last season. Mathis, the heart and soul of the defense, will also miss games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans.
The Colts' image and aspirations to take another step in the AFC next season took a hit they couldn't afford to take Friday.