Taking a look at what Chuck Pagano said in his press conference today...
- Chuck Pagano said that linebacker Kavell Conner, offensive lineman Hugh Thornton, and cornerback Greg Toler will all practice today. MY TAKE: All three of them missed last week's game, and in the case of Conner and Toler, many more weeks as well. It's a good sign that they are all practicing, but it remains to be a wait and see approach with them.
- Pagano said that T.Y. Hilton has been dealing with a shoulder injury that he suffered in the first half of the Cardinals game, and that the injury has been bothering him since. He said that Hilton is fighting through it and that it's nothing serious, but that he has been rested in practice some days because of it. MY TAKE: It hasn't seemed to limit his snap count or anything like that in games on Sunday, but there is no doubt that he is still struggling with it and is not at 100% right now. Then again, who is at 100% at this point in the season? These kind of things are fairly normal at this point.
- Chuck Pagano dropped the "throw out the records" line today when talking about Colts vs. Texans this Sunday, meaning that the Colts can't treat the Texans as the 2-11 team that they are but instead, as Pagano said, as "a division game, division rival, roster that's loaded with great talent." MY TAKE: He has a real point. In division games, AFC South opponents always play the Colts tough, and this Sunday should be no different. The Colts can't treat the Texans as if they're as bad as their record is, because if the Colts start doing that they will be in very real danger of losing to that 2-11 team.
- Pagano talked about T.Y. Hilton beyond just his shoulder injury but also talked about how he has been drawing the attention of opposing defenses recently: "And so whether they're doubling him, dropping somebody down, a linebacker or an extra safety to give a nickelback or whatever extra help on him, rolling the coverage to him, I'm sure he's one of the guys they talk about as a game-wrecker. They're going to make sure he doesn't wreck the game. Certainly the game that two of our young guys had, LaVon (Brazill) and Da'Rick (Rogers), that they had last week, the numbers that they had and the production that they had, certainly now hopefully we continue that trend and it'll take some of that coverage, take it maybe away from T.Y. We got to get him going again." MY TAKE: T.Y. Hilton has been rather quiet recently, but it hasn't all been his fault. He has been dealing with a shoulder injury and a more significant factor to the game in that defenses are focusing on him now and trying to take him out of the game. As Pagano mentioned and as I did too on Tuesday, hopefully with the potential emergence of Da'Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill (who Pagano said yet again have earned more playing time) it opens things up more for T.Y.
- About the newly signed running back Tashard Choice, Pagano said that, "he's been in the league. He's got a bunch of carries and yards and a few touchdowns. He's a smart guy. He's played special teams. And so we'll see how fast we can implement him into the system, how fast he can pick up things, again, both from a special teams standpoint and as a third running back." MY TAKE: I wouldn't expect to see much out of Choice on Sunday unless the Colts really need him. It'll probably be a special teams role early on as he learns the offense.
- Pagano said that Cassius Vaughn will return kicks this Sunday. He also hinted that LaVon Brazill might return punts, saying, "he's a guy that's done it for us in the past." MY TAKE: The previous kick returner, Chris Rainey, was placed on injured reserve by the Colts earlier this week. Vaughn has been the backup kick returner for the entire season, and he has filled in at spots. We'll see whether or not he keeps the job beyond this week, but he'll be returning kicks this Sunday, at least. As far as Brazill at punt returner, that would be my guess, and Pagano's words indicate that too. Ideally, they would put T.Y. Hilton back there, but he is too important on the offense.
- Asked if he had a reaction to the NFL saying that referee Jeff Triplette blew the call where he incorrectly awarded the Bengals a touchdown, Pagano said: "No. No. We're still 8-5. And we got the Texans coming to town. And we won the division. So we got a lot of good things going on. Now we got to catch the momentum, now we got to catch fire. As Robert (Mathis) just said, we got to ‘strike the match' and catch fire and get the mojo going." MY TAKE: "Strike the match." That's a new one in a long line of Colts motivational sayings. It might be just me, but I think that one is stretching it a bit and isn't the most motivating saying in the world.
- The last question Pagano was asked was this: Question: "Are you the type of coach where if a starter is out with injury and his replacement is playing well, you'll just continue to roll with that guy? Or when the starter is healthy again does he get his job back?" Answer: "Nobody, I don't think since we've been here, nobody's ever really lost their job because of injury, if that's what you're asking me. So if a guy gets injured and somebody else goes in, when he's healthy, he gets his job back." MY TAKE: To me, that's the most interesting thing Pagano said all day - yeah, even more so than "strike the match." Basically, what Pagano is saying is that once a guy comes back from injury, he will get his spot back. That sounds like a good plan, until you get into the area of some players who are playing terrible getting injured, and then their replacement playing much better. Should they automatically get their starting spot back? No - but Pagano says that he gives the starters their spot back when coming off of an injury. This speaks to his loyalty, and it also probably doesn't matter much - the returning player's leash might be incredibly short and he could end up losing it anyways. But it also could be a problem in that guys who don't deserve to get their spot back get it back anyways. Again, this is only an issue if Pagano holds incredibly firm to this point and then gives the returning player way too much time back instead of going with the better player. Practically, however, it means that Hugh Thornton - coming off an injury - will likely get his starting spot back, even though he was terrible before and his replacement, Joe Reitz, played well (even though Pagano shied away from the question directly earlier in the press conference).