Winning hasn't come without a cost for the Colts this year. In their first victory, in week three over the Titans, quarterback Andrew Luck suffered a shoulder injury that kept him out for two weeks. Then later in the season, in week nine against the Broncos, Luck suffered a lacerated kidney and torn abdominal muscle, defensive end Henry Anderson suffered a torn ACL, and safety Mike Adams suffered an ankle injury. Against the Falcons in week eleven, left tackle Anthony Castonzo suffered an MCL sprain. And then on Sunday against the Buccaneers, running back Ahmad Bradshaw suffered a wrist injury that will end his season.
It's just the latest in a string of injuries for Indianapolis, and while it's not the most significant one (Luck, Anderson, Adams, and Castonzo were all more important to the team this year), it's still a big loss that hurts and one that the Colts will need to overcome. Bradshaw had provided a boost to the offense, but now he's on injured reserve for the third straight year.
"It's devastating," head coach Chuck Pagano said on Monday. "You feel awful for the kid. I said kid, he's a grown man. He's a warrior. He's a tough, tough, competitive guy and he lays it all on the line week-in and week-out. He gives you everything he's got. He's been through a ton. Very, very productive before he got injured a year ago for us. He was on his way to doing the same thing again for us this year and gets this injury, so it's tough. You hate to lose anybody to injury, especially to a season-ending one. He's going to be missed. He brings a lot to this football team in a lot of different areas with just the way he approaches, his preparation, the way he plays the game, his physicality, his toughness, his mindset. It's a big loss. They're going to kick that thing off - I think we play at 8:30 Sunday night over in Pittsburgh, so they're not going to cancel the game. Life goes on and it's next man up."
That's now the challenge for the Colts: finding that next man up to replace Bradshaw. It's hard to do, mainly because of Bradshaw's abilities both as a blocker and as a receiver while still maintaining a threat in the running game. He's a complete, all-around running back who unfortunately just can't stay healthy.
The bulk of the task in replacing Bradshaw will likely go to Boom Herron, who the Colts brought back last week via a waiver claim. Herron served as the number two back briefly last year after Bradshaw was injured before soon taking over the starting role. He figured to be the team's number two back behind Frank Gore this year until a shoulder injury in the fourth preseason game resulted in him being waived. Once healthy, he was picked up by the Bills, but he was waived last week and the Colts claimed him. At the time, it seemed like a good move to add a third running back, but now it looks even bigger as Herron will be the Colts' backup to Gore. Between Herron and Zurlon Tipton, the Colts will need to find a way to replace Ahmad Bradshaw.
"It's going to have to be by committee," Pagano said yesterday. "Somebody is going to have to emerge. Certainly Boom will be one of the guys obviously. He'll fill in now as the No. 2 guy and obviously bringing (Zurlon) Tipton back, he'll be the third back and special teamer, things like that. Tip is a smart guy, and he understands protections. We know Frank (Gore) can do it, just a matter of volume. Frank played 51 snaps I think in this ball game. That's a lot of snaps."
The Colts do have options, but replacing a guy like Bradshaw isn't easy to do. The good news, however, is that they brought in Boom Herron last week, and now he'll need to step up. As Pagano notes, the game doesn't just get canceled because of injuries, so it's next man up. Now, it's Boom Herron getting the nod as the next man up behind Frank Gore at running back.