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DIGGING DEEP

Posted Dec 14, 2012

Indianapolis ventures to Houston Sunday in search of a 10th win and to stave off the AFC South being decided. In doing so, the Colts are thin on the offensive line and in the backfield.

INDIANAPOLIS – Perhaps the most time honored mantra for the Colts is “Next Man Up.”

 

According to Bruce Arians it has been replaced.

 

“Next man up left about three weeks ago.  It’s ‘Next Man in the Building,’ ” said Arians on Friday when giving the club’s medical update for the divisional match Sunday at Houston.

 

Arians has ruled out safety Tom Zbikowski (knee), running back Delone Carter (ankle), center Samson Satele (ankle), linebacker Kavell Conner (hamstring) and tackle Winston Justice (bicep).

 

Indianapolis will get left guard Joe Reitz back, and A.Q. Shipley and Jeff Linkenbach will start at center and right tackle. 

 

Shipley and Linkenbach have toiled in games this season at those spots when injuries dictated so, and this is the second time they have opened a game together at those positions.

 

The last time was in the club’s 27-10 win at Jacksonville.  It will be Shipley’s third start this year. It will be Linkenbach’s third at right tackle, while he opened four games at left guard.

 

“It’s not a lineup we’ve never had before,” said tackle Anthony Castonzo.  “When we’ve had to line up, we’ve done well.  We’re comfortable with A.Q. and Jeff.  It’s Next Man Up, and that’s been the theme all year.  It’s the nature of the unit.  You go out and do the job, clean yourself up at the end of the day and go home.”

 

Going into a tough venue, the issue for Arians is not Shipley’s ability, it is having only three other healthy linemen – Bradley Sowell, Tony Hills and Seth Olsen.

 

“He’s had to do it a couple of times now, so he’s used to it,” said Arians.  “That’s probably the least of my concerns, him getting his calls and making everything right.  We cannot afford any injuries in this ballgame up front.  We’ll be pretty thin.”

 

The Colts this week put running backs Donald Brown and Robert Hughes on injured reserve, while bringing back two players with the club earlier this year, Mewelde Moore and Deji Karim.

 

While Moore and Karim are ready to spell rookie Vick Ballard when needed, Arians expects Ballard to shoulder a large portion of the load.

 

“I’ve always said the ball is not heavy.  It’s how many times he can take those hits,” said Arians.  “As young as he is, it’s been a long grind for him.  It’s a long season for a rookie.  He has some aches and pains, but he’s tough and I think he’s a winner.  I think he’ll show up and play big.

 

“I have all the confidence in the world in Mewelde as far as Vick tapping out and putting another guy in and him (Ballard) going right back in the game as soon as he’s fresh.  We were fortunate enough that we could get Melwede and Deji back in the backfield, guys that know our system.” 

 

Arians has come in for praise all season for the outstanding way has carried the team in Head Coach Chuck Pagano’s absence.  Arians has praised first-year General Manager Ryan Grigson throughout the year as well, and he did so again Friday for Grigson’s ability to provide personnel in the crunch.

 

“You can’t say enough about what Ryan (Grigson) has done,” said Arians.  “The guys in the defensive line and other places, Ryan’s done a great job of finding guys who are smart, tough and buy in right away.  The coaches have done a heck of a job getting them ready to play.”

 

The Colts are 9-4 and can keep Houston from clinching the division.  Three Indianapolis wins can tip the division in the Colts’ favor, while one in the next three will clinch a playoff berth most outside observers deemed unlikely in 2012.

 

Football always gets Arians’ juices flowing, and this Sunday is no different.

 

“Sure it is,” he said of this being a big game.  “It’s a conference game, a division game, a division championship basically on the line.  This is what you live for in December, a chance to play for your division title.  If you can’t get excited about that, you shouldn’t be playing.”

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