Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Saturday he is confident that his team "will get through" challenges it faces without suspended linebacker Robert Mathis.
The NFL announced Mathis' suspension on Friday without pay for the first four games of the regular season for a violation of the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs.
Mathis, the best defensive player on the team, had 19.5 sacks last season.
"We'll get through this, we'll come together as a team, we'll come together as a family, we'll come together as an organization and we'll get through this," Pagano said. "We love and respect Robert Mathis. He's a horseshoe guy, he's a pillar guy.
"Like I said before, we've got his back. Everybody in this organization has his back, and we'll get through this and at the end of the day, we'll all be better for it."
Mathis issued a statement Friday, saying the positive test was the result of taking a drug that he thought to be approved by the NFL to aid fertility.
Mathis will be eligible to return to the Colts' active roster on Monday, Sept. 29, after their Sept. 28 game against the Tennessee Titans. He also will miss games against the Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars.
The NFL issued a statement in response to Mathis later on Friday.
"As Mr. Mathis' 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," the statement said. "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."
Mathis is eligible to participate in offseason and preseason practices and games.
The 33-year-old Mathis finished second to Luke Kuechly in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting last season. Mathis had a career-best 19 1/2 sacks, 59 tackles and forced eight fumbles.
In 11 NFL seasons, all with the Colts, Mathis has racked up 487 tackles, including 111 sacks.