INDIANAPOLIS – Bruce Arians is a relentlessly compelling coach, one who exhorts, critiques, motivates and anticipates.
With rookies on the team reaching the regular season’s mid-point two weeks ago, Arians pounced on a topic that surfaces annually in the NFL, the so-called “rookie wall.”
“We have eight (rookies) playing. We address it all the time,” said Arians. “I started two weeks ago harassing them about the rookie wall and what to expect. It’s more of a mental fatigue than a physical fatigue.”
Rookies have been indoctrinated into the “Colts Way” since April. They all, to some degree, have been thrust into the fray, some starting and others serving as key reserves.
Counting preseason, the team has played 14 of its 20 scheduled games. Only the most capable teams play beyond that.
“They’re all doing a good job of taking care of their bodies right now. They’re running fast and doing those things. It’s the mental grind,” said Arians. “This is when the big boys play, December. What you did in November doesn’t mean a dag-gone thing. It’s what you do in December that they remember.
“These guys have a chance to do something special, if they’ll just stay in the moment, not worry about the future, take care of their bodies, take care of each day. They’re not rookies anymore. They’ve logged enough snaps to be second- or third-year players by now. We don’t consider them rookies anymore.”
“I realize that I’m not allowed to feel it (laughs), especially with where this team is right now, what’s at stake,” said Luck. “It’s been alright to this point. I think it would be a disservice to teammates if I started feeling sorry for myself, down and what not. It’s easy when you know what’s at stake. Games are big. It’s not too hard to get up for it and get prepared for it.”
“Every year is a grind, because it’s more of a marathon than a sprint. You have to tell the guys to have a routine and stick to it, stay on top of the details,” said Mathis.
Ballard heard Arians reference the topic before the Jacksonville game. He feels fine and will follow the advice Mathis has for maintaining an approach that works.
“I don’t know if it’s real or not. If it is, I haven’t reached mine yet,” said Ballard. “My pace is one day at a time and not to get too overwhelmed with what’s going on.
“The veterans have been there before. They know what to do, so I’ll listen. The veterans are a source to go to if you hit a rookie wall.”
While Ballard has felt nothing yet, he had heard of the topic when Arians brought it up.
“I didn’t think too much of it. I had heard about it from rookies last year in the league,” said Ballard. “I was wondering, ‘When is mine going to come?’ It hasn’t come yet. I’m happy for that.
“I’ll keep on and take it one day at a time. It’s a long season. You don’t want to get repetitive to where you get tired of it. I feel good. Once you get deep into the season your body starts to feel a little wear and tear, but I feel pretty healthy.”
Indianapolis will rely on a number of rookies as it tries to move to 7-4 this week and beyond that in the five games afterward. Luck and Ballard have been joined by others in the offense such as tight ends
Mathis is not surprise by their contributions.
“No, but at the same time, I’m very proud of it. They came and stepped right in,” said Mathis. “They’ve been very professional about their roles on the team. I’m very thankful like that. I appreciate them all.”
ROSTER MOVE – Guard