You can say whatever you want about Matt Hasselbeck's quarterbacking this season, but you definitely can't question his toughness. Playing more than anyone ever imagined he would have to this season, the 40-year old has been incredibly beat up recently.
There's the rib injury - the one suffered a few weeks ago that still bothers him the most of all his ailments. The back injury. The jaw injury - the one suffered on Sunday that has him on a liquid diet. When head coach Chuck Pagano said on Monday that Hasselbeck is "beat up from the feet up," he meant it. Last week, Hasselbeck noted that the injuries were an issue when trying to breathe heavily, something that's kind of important in a football game. After the team's loss on Sunday, Hasselbeck noted that, "Today I got nothing left."
Because of all of that, it's very fair to wonder whether Hasselbeck will play this Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. We know that Andrew Luck won't, as he was ruled out on Monday, which leaves either Hasselbeck or Charlie Whitehurst as the starter. Today, Hasselbeck said that Chuck Pagano came to him and offered him an out - in other words, if he was too beat up, he didn't have to play on Sunday. Hasselbeck said thanks but no thanks and plans to start this weekend. Why is that?
"I don't know, I just thinkâa lot of reasons really," Hasselbeck said. "Coach Pagano and I had a good talk about that today. He basically kind of gave me a green light if that was how I wanted to handle this. I think just who I want to be to the guys in this locker room and the example you want to set. I mean everybody is banged up. Like I said, I was sort of joking when I said it, my injuries get more attention than the other guys, but we've got all kinds of guys banged up right now. Every team does and now is the time to be mentally and physically tough. It gets challenging. We've lost a few games, the atmosphere is not ideal, it can be a little toxic so we just need guys to stick together, toughen up mentally and physically and fight. We've got guys like Robert Mathis and Frank Gore, guys that I've played against that are just absolute studs or warriors that play through injury, come back from surgery, those kinds of things. It's inspiring to play with those guys. Not putting myself in their category at all but if I can do my part, I'm going to."
It's incredibly admirable of Hasselbeck to want to continue to play despite his injuries, and it's easy to see why his teammates respect him and why he's considered a leader in the locker room. Basically, Hasselbeck's take is simple: he'll give his best effort and then it's up to the coaches to decide whether that's good enough or whether they want to go another direction.
"The thing for me is just I want to play winning football and that's the job of the coach to decide, hey I'm going to give you everything that I got, you decide if it's good enough for you," he said today. "I'm way, way better off this week than I was the Jacksonville week or then I was the Houston week. I don't know what to say. It's not my call. My job is just to get ready and show them what I got. I felt like I had a great practice today and that was my focus. My focus was to come out and be focused and have the best practice you could possibly have."
Chuck Pagano said yesterday that he expects Hasselbeck to start, and since Hasselbeck turned down Pagano's offer to rest, it sounds like it will indeed be number eight under center for the eighth game this year when the Colts take the field on Sunday in Miami.