INDIANAPOLIS – Call it a Super Bowl.
Call it a National Championship.
Call it Week Four of the Preseason.
The reality is this---Thursday night marks the final 60 minutes of football for 22 players with the Indianapolis Colts.
When Harnish takes his first snap on Thursday night (likely in the first quarter) he will take the field with 10 other guys knowing what’s at stake.
“Every year I wouldn’t say the pressure mounts but the importance of good play, not just with myself, but with the unit mounts because for a lot of guys this is their careers on the line,” the Bluffton, Ind. native says.
In each of the last two preseason finales, Harnish has logged 42 snaps at the quarterback position.
The Bengals defensive scheme hasn’t changed over the past three years so Harnish has some familiarity with what will be coming at him on Thursday night.
“They like to bring some more exotic blitzes than probably most teams,” Harnish says. “Having that experience and being able to go back and watch those games will be huge for me. Already being in that stadium provides some common experiences that we should be able to capitalize on.”
Discounting what happens on the field come Thursday would be foolish.
In 2013, the Colts watched then Bengals running Boom Herron lead Cincinnati in rushing in Week Four of the preseason. The Colts would go on to pluck Herron off the Bengals practice squad in early October.
Chuck Pagano said it best on Tuesday, “We’re still in pencil,” when alluding to the team’s fluid roster.
“There’s guys still fighting for jobs and guys fighting to keep jobs. That’s every day.” Pagano said.
“We just talked about it after practice because all you have to do is make a 53 and then take your foot off the gas, next thing you know you walk in and your locker’s taken by somebody else. Every day you walk in, you look at your jersey number, ‘I’m going to do everything I possibly can within my power to make sure I don’t give this up.’”
When the Colts board the buses home late Thursday night, dozens of players will ponder, ‘Did I do enough?’
Second-guessing will inevitably occur, knowing their fate is all but over to see if they have earned a spot on the Colts 53-man roster.
Pagano can sympathize with the range of emotions going through those players’ heads.
“It’s every kid’s dream growing up to have an opportunity to play in the National Football League, get yourself in an NFL building, if you will, in a locker room. With that in mind, it’s extremely difficult. I can only imagine the emotions that are going through their heads at this point,” Pagano says.
“Like I said last week, we had to get to 75. You can’t worry about that. You’ve just got to focus on today, focus on tomorrow, go out and play as good as you can play. Put your best tape on film and let the chips fall where they fall.”