The Indianapolis Colts have been dealing with a rash of injuries already through camp and into the preseason. There have been a few veterans getting dinged up, but the vast majority of those being forced to sit out of practices have been the younger players and even a host of rookies.
Chuck Pagano seemingly already has a large portion of the deck stacked against him with Andrew Luck coming off of surgery and the unknown of how this new-look Colts roster will mesh as they enter the regular season. If he’s going to get this team back to its winning ways, the last thing he needs is for so many important pieces to be out with injuries for an extended period of time.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what is happening right now. Granted, most of those who were sitting out last week have come back to practice, but the fact that they’ve been unavailable during such a crucial time in the season appears to be really rubbing him the wrong way. And I don’t blame him a bit.
Once the rookies and non-seasoned veterans, so to speak, leave from their offseason training program to return home until they come back for training camp, the understanding is that the players will train on their own and take care of their bodies in preparation for the season. Pagano doesn’t seem convinced that that’s been the case this year.
“You’ve got to work and you’ve got to practice. My hat goes off to all of the guys that are here – the guys that have practiced that have pushed through. There are some guys out here that are practicing that are really hurt. They’re sucking it up and they’re pushing through it and it’s our vets.”
You can take away from Pagano’s comments what you will, but every NFL team needs guys to be these kind of players. Not soft, ready to get to work from Day 1 of camp and to not become an injury-plagued player. Pagano’s frustration is showing right now, and for my money, it’s got nothing to do with the team’s training staff or any other team-based excuse that’s out there right now. It’s on the players for the most part.
Of course we’re not talking about Malik Hooker who had offseason surgery like Luck, or guys who are set for their own procedure like Ryan Kelly. And we’re not talking about guys who legitimately get injured during camp. We’re talking about the guys who run to the training staff with boo-boos and sit out. Who exactly that is? I have no clue, and I wouldn’t want to speculate, but it seems clear that Pagano feels that there is at least some on this roster who fall into that group.
Pagano wasn’t going to let go of this either. And he made a point to offer up who he wasn’t talking about as well. We’ve got guys that are hurting.
“Kamar Aiken has come in here and he’s ran as much as anybody – he’s a warrior. Young Nate Hairston is battling something. He doesn’t want to come out, he’s pushing through. We’ve had our rash of stuff, but you’ve got to keep going, you can’t stop.”
And he continued…
“We’ve got all of them in here doing a 45-minute post-practice recovery session doing rollers, it’s all nutrition, it’s sleep, it’s hydration - it’s everything. There’s no offseason anymore. We’ve got nine weeks to try to develop guys. The pros get it – they’ve figured it out. But the young guys, they don’t have a clue. We’ve got them for nine weeks and then we have to cut them loose for five, and you can’t do anything with them. You can’t talk to them, you can’t tell them what to put in their bodies and we’ve got to trust that they are doing the right thing. So that when they come back in five weeks, if they haven’t done what they’re supposed to do, there’s a good chance you’re going to pull – a really good chance.”
On the surface, I guess you could say that it’s possibly just frustration coming out of Pagano when he obviously knows his, and his team’s situation. He likely feels as though some of the recent additions are some of the best talent he’s been able to coach throughout his tenure in Indianapolis. In fact, he’s said so himself on several occasions, especially when referring to the defensive line talent, and depth.
Additionally, Pagano knows that those of us who follow and cover the team are going to write stuff like this, which will make its rounds and maybe one of those he’s referring to will read it and get a chip on their shoulder. He’s aware of what’s written about the team, at least on some level.
Some of the players that we spoke about in the offseason who may not be re-signed, or could be let go were guys who’ve fought through injuries and came back ready to play as soon as humanly possible. Many of those guys are all still on the team. That’s who stays employed in the NFL, and getting that mindset ingrained into these young players is absolutely essential to being successful in Indianapolis. My guess is we’ll get a clearer picture of some of those targeted by these comments come roster cuts.