Although most of what is said by NFL team personnel during media availability — particularly the Indianapolis Colts — is all just cliches and safe, cookie cutter responses, sometimes there are some interesting things to take away. Here are something things I found leading up to the Colts’ matchup with the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday.
“We’ll slowly start working him [Andrew Luck] back into practice this week... We’ll see how much he gets... But we’ve got a plan in place to where we want him to start getting him reps and then, in time as we can get him incorporated back into team work and all that, we’ll get him back on the field.”
-Colts general manager Chris Ballard on Monday on the team’s radio show (1070 The Fan).
Obviously, this is huge. Now, this is still part of the slow process of getting Luck back full-time, but the fact that he is now practicing is a big next step. He will be worked in slowly. Hopefully, he will be on the in-game field of play within the next 3-4 weeks (that’s my guess).
“They’ve got some guys I’ve gone against before, especially Jabaal Sheard. I was with him in Cleveland (for) a year, played against him last year in the Super Bowl when he was at New England, and I think he’s playing as — he’s always been a good player — but I think he’s playing as good as he ever has.”
-49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan in regards to the Colts’ revamped defensive front seven.
After a slow start, newcomer Sheard is starting to play well for the Colts. He got his first official sack with the Colts last week against Seattle along with 2 QB hits.
“I know they [Colts defense] haven’t had the numbers they wanted, but I think there’s a reason. It’s not a coincidence that they played Arizona so tight all the way into the fourth (quarter), and it took until the third quarter for Seattle to score some points. I know with those turnovers they eventually ran away with it, but I think they’re a lot farther along than people realize.”
-Shanahan in regards to the Colts’ defense.
Although the Colts’ allowed points (40.7 avg in three losses) makes their defense look awful, it’s not all on the defense. In both Week 1 and Week 4, the offense had two turnovers that were returned for touchdowns. Giving up 32 points looks a lot better than 46. The Colts defense is finally getting after the quarterback (9 sacks, sixth in NFL) and taking the ball away (7 takeaways, third in NFL).
“Deyshawn (Bond) will have season-ending surgery for a torn tendon in his quad.”
-Colts head coach Chuck Pagano.
Bond filled in really well while Ryan Kelly was recovering from foot surgery. Luckily, Kelly happens to be back right on time as Bond is lost for the season.
“Yeah, three losses by eight points. The guys that know football and really know what’s going on and can see through all that stuff, they know that there’s a good football team coming to town.”
-Pagano describing the 49ers.
Often times, people get lost in just seeing a team’s record. Although the 49ers are 0-4, the closeness of their losses could just as easily put them at 2-2 or so. The 49ers should not be taken lightly.
“Back, back. Starting.”
-Pagano in regards to if starting center Ryan Kelly is returning this week.
As I already mentioned, this is great timing with Bond now lost for the year.
-Pagano when asked who will be Ryan Kelly’s backup this week.
I’ve been asked this a lot this week, especially after the Colts waived Adam Redmond this week, who came in for Bond when he went down. Ian Silberman is also on the practice squad. Keep an eye on him getting a chance at some point this year.
“They have to. We don’t have, obviously, any other choices. Brandon (Williams) will do a great job. Darrell (Daniels) will do a great job. The wideouts will do a great job. It’s good to have Marlon (Mack) back out there. He gives us another piece of the puzzle back out there and a guy that we can put in there and utilize in some different situations, a guy that can make plays. Hopefully everybody else will step up and fill that role.”
-Pagano when asked if he’s confident that Brandon Williams can step up in Jack Doyle’s absence.
You wouldn’t really expect Pagano to say anything different in regards to this tight end situation. But, what I found interesting is that this question had absolutely nothing to do with running backs and Pagano managed to specifically mention rookie running back Marlon Mack. Could he be in for a large and/or unique role this week?
“The way we can respect him and respect what he’s done for this organization, the National Football League and our community is go out there and play our asses off and play well, play great Colts football.”
-Pagano on “Peyton Manning Weekend”.
This seems like it will be an awesome atmosphere this Sunday, not only inside Lucas Oil Stadium, but downtown Indianapolis in general. Hopefully the Colts capitalize on the opportunity to impress their “franchise ancestors” and a crowd that will support them if they give them a good showing.
“It’s big, just to see our leader back out there. That’s a plus for us to see him back in uniform throwing the ball around. That’s a good thing. That’s our leader. Since I’ve been here, I respect him a whole lot. He’s one of the guys that I feel like loves the game, respects the game and plays the game the right way. Very smart and I can’t wait to see him out there.”
-Colts running back Frank Gore describing Luck practicing again.
For someone who is considered a legend like Gore is, to see him speak about Luck like that really shows you what Luck means to the Colts’ locker room. I’m sure they all like having a capable quarterback in Jacoby Brissett, but nobody can replace Luck in the eyes of his teammates.
“It’s just going to be another game. I’m going to try to do whatever it takes to help my team get a win. See some of my old guys, I think like three or four guys (are) left from the team I played with. I’ll say what’s up with them before the game and then try to beat them.”
-Gore in regards to playing against the 49ers for the first time.
While there are only a few guys left on the 49ers roster from when he was in San Francisco, there’s no way this is “just another game”. It only seems right for the Colts to feed Gore against San Francisco’s 15th-ranked run defense.
“I hesitate to speak too much about that conversation because I do think it’s personal in a sense, but he obviously went through a very traumatic shoulder injury early in his career. And so, he’s always been very, very kind to me and (to) I think a bunch of guys around the league. I know I looked up to him when I was coming out of high school, and so we talked a lot about the process and what he went through and some of the similarities and differences in things that we were dealing with. And so, I know it helped on certain things (to) put my mind at ease hearing form someone in a similar situation that had gone through a similar situation. I’m very grateful for him for taking the time out to speak with me and I continue to rely on him as a resource.”
-Luck in regards to how New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has helped him through the process.
It’s cool to see players in helpless situations reach out to other players around the league who experienced similar situations. Brees suffered a catastrophic shoulder injury to close out his career with the then-San Diego Chargers. The Miami Dolphins elected to pass on signing him (much to the chagrin of Nick Saban). The New Orleans Saints embraced Brees, and the rest is history.
“Yeah, oh yes.”
-Luck, when asked if he can say with certainty that he will play this season.
That’s always good to hear. It’s a slow process getting back into game shape, but Luck is confident he’ll be back on the playing field before the season is up.
“Yeah, it’s not true. The reason for not responding when it comes up is because it’s not true. A lot of things are not true — I don’t respond to those things. That’s false. I think we live in an age where a lot of people have the platform to say a lot of things. A lot of it’s not true and maybe some of it is.”
-Luck in regards to the rumors that he is unhappy being with the Colts.
From the horse’s mouth.
“It felt great. Just having him around, having his presence around, talking to him during practice. It felt good having him out there. He was watching in the rain, so that speaks a lot about him. Big brother — I always look up to him. Just love having him out there.”
T.Y. Hilton when asked what it was like having former teammate Reggie Wayne out at practice on Friday.
Wayne was Hilton’s mentor in Indianapolis, as Wayne’s career was winding down as Hilton’s was beginning. Hilton has always talked about how much he has learned from Wayne. I’m sure being around him was at the very least comforting for Hilton. Who knows, maybe Hilton told Wayne to get ready for a big-time performance on Sunday?