Evan Mathis feeling Super, not regretful
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Evan Mathis has made it to the Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos, but in a touch of irony, the credential that he was wearing around his neck Monday at 'Super Bowl Opening Night' still had his Eagles head shot on it.
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Evan Mathis has made it to the Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos, but in a touch of irony, the credential that he was wearing around his neck Monday at "Super Bowl Opening Night" still had his Eagles head shot on it.
"When I first got there (to Denver), they Photoshopped this picture for all the Broncos' use," Mathis said. "And it had me with an orange jersey. But for some reason, in this one, I'm still wearing (Eagle green)."
Things have worked out very well for the 34-year-old guard. Released by Chip Kelly last June after skipping the Eagles' voluntary OTAs when the team wouldn't renegotiate his contract, Mathis signed a one-year deal with the Broncos and finds himself in his first Super Bowl.
He lost $3 million in the move. He would have made $5.5 million with the Eagles this season. The Broncos gave him just $2.5 million. But Mathis said he has "zero regrets."
"Look where we are right now," he told a group of Philadelphia reporters during Monday's interview session on the floor of the SAP Center. "What the hell would I do differently? The opportunity to do this is much more valuable than that ($3 million) could ever be.
"When anybody looks back on my career, are they going to say how much money did Evan Mathis make in 2015, or are they going to say he went to the Super Bowl?
"This is the ultimate dream for a football player. To be able to play in the Super Bowl. To (have a chance to) win the Super Bowl. I've been in the league a long time. I haven't had this opportunity before. I'm extremely excited to be here."
Mathis said he followed what happened with the Eagles this season "a little bit."
"I've really been immersed in what we've been doing," he said. "I've talked to some of the guys there throughout the season. And half my Twitter feed or more are all you (media) guys and (Eagles) fans. So I got a lot of secondary information through Twitter."
Mathis reiterated Monday night that he fully intended to show up for the Eagles' mandatory minicamp last June and absolutely wouldn't have been a training-camp holdout or a locker-room malcontent.
Both before and after his firing, Kelly has been criticized by some of Mathis' former Eagles teammates for having difficulty relating to players. Asked whether he found that to be the case, a diplomatic Mathis said, "I think he tried his best."
That said, he admitted it wasn't a big surprise to him when Kelly was fired.
"What I saw was a lot of pressure from the fan base expressing their emotions about the situation," he said. "I don't think there's many fan bases in the world that have the pull that the Philly fans do.
"I think that really had a lot to do with it. I'm not saying they're the ones that make the decisions. But the environment that they help create, it can be one that you thrive in or it can be one that it's really hard to succeed in."
Mathis has battled through injuries much of the season. Injured a hamstring in Week 2 and suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 11.
The hamstring injury caused him to miss a lot of practice time early on, and he often was listed as questionable on the injury report. But he didn't miss a start and played all but three snaps in the Broncos' first six games, and 730 of 813 snaps (89.8 percent) in their first 12 games.
Late in the season, the Broncos started working in rookie Max Garcia at the two guard spots with Mathis and right guard Louis Vasquez.
"Max is going to be a very, very good player," Mathis said. "If I could buy stock in Max, I would."
Mathis played just 28 snaps in back-to-back losses to the Raiders and Steelers in Weeks 14 and 15 and just six snaps in a 20-17, Week 16 win over the Bengals. Garcia started the Broncos' last three regular-season games.
But Mathis has started both of Denver's playoff wins. He played all 74 snaps in their 23-16 win over Pittsburgh in the divisional round and 55 of 68 snaps in their 20-18 win over the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
"It's been really tough," Mathis said of the injuries. "You make your living as an athlete because you can do things physically well. When you have an injury like the hamstring or the ankle, it really limits what you can do.
"It's super frustrating not to be able to be yourself. I played through the hamstring, which might've slowed the recovery a little bit. And then as soon as I recovered from that, the high ankle sprain happened."
High ankle sprains are 4-to-6-week injuries. But the week after he sustained it, Mathis played 55 of 79 snaps in the Broncos' 30-24 win over the Patriots. The week after that, he played every snap in a 17-3 win over the Chargers.
"Later in the season, they were able to give me a little more rest," Mathis said. "There was one game (against the Steelers in Week 15) where I only played special teams. That did wonders for me.
"Now it feels pretty good. It still gets a little achy and sore. But it's not injured right now."
Mathis' experience has been very valuable to the Broncos' offensive line, particularly after they lost tackles Ryan Clady and Ty Sambrailo to season-ending injuries.
Garcia is a fourth-round rookie. Right tackle Michael Schofield and center Matt Paradis both are second-year players.
The Broncos' first-year coach, Gary Kubiak, and his offensive coordinator, Rick Dennison, installed a zone-blocking scheme that took some getting used to for many of the players. But it was a relatively smooth transition for Mathis, who did a lot of the same things with the Eagles.
Kubiak wanted to run the ball more than the Broncos had in the past, and there were growing pains early on. Through the first nine games, they were near the bottom of the league in rushing, averaging just 86 yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry.
But in the last seven regular-season games, they averaged 134.8 rushing yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry. In the playoff wins over the Steelers and Patriots, running back C.J. Anderson averaged 4.6 yards per carry.
Mathis will be a free agent in March. He said Monday he has "no idea" what his next move will be. But it would be surprising to see him retire.
"I haven't even thought about it," he said. "When I think about it, I stop thinking about it. I'm locked in on the task at hand right now. When I'm not hurt, I know I'm still as fast and as strong as I always have been."
On Twitter: @Pdomo