Players Responded to Two-Day Break, Dungy Says
INDIANAPOLIS – Early on, Tony Dungy liked what he saw.
Because the Colts' game this weekend against the NFL's last remaining unbeaten team is on a Monday rather than the normal Sunday, Dungy – in his seventh season as the Colts' head coach – gave players two days off this week rather than the normal total of one.
So, rather than being away from the facility only Tuesday, this week the players were off Tuesday and Wednesday before reing to the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
And in this case, Dungy said the break perhaps was needed.
"We had an extended time off for our players," Dungy said Thursday as the Colts (3-3), the five-time defending AFC South champions, began preparing to play division-leading Tennessee Titans (6-0) at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., Monday at 8:30 a.m.
"I think it helped us maybe get rested up a little bit more. We seemed to have good focus and good energy. Hopefully, we'll have a good practice and get ready to go."
Dungy, speaking shortly after noon – after the team's morning walkthrough and before an afternoon practice – said practice will be particularly important this week preparing for a Tennessee team he said is "playing as well as anybody that I've seen" this season.
"We're going to need it," Dungy said. "These guys (Tennessee) are tough. They're protecting the football well. They're running and pounding it really well. (Rookie first-round selection) Chris Johnson looks like the real deal at running back. They don't have many holes.
"We're going to need to be ready to go and we're looking forward to it."
Dungy also on Thursday said the Colts would like to get linebacker Tyjuan Hagler increased playing time from last week.
Hagler, who started seven games at outside linebacker last season, returned from the Physically Unable to Perform list and played last week in the Colts' 34-14 loss to Green Bay. His lone tackles came on special teams, where he made two tackles and forced a fumble.
"We'd like to get Tyjuan in more," Dungy said. "Right now, our linebackers are playing well. We thought we'd get him in a little more last week. It didn't work out that way, but he's healthy and I'm sure we'll get him going at least on special teams this week.
"We'll have to look at him, but we do want to get him in. He made it through practice and did well, and I think he'll be that much further along this week."
Said Hagler, "Getting some work is a pretty good way of putting it. I want to expand my role from last year and keep getting more and more work each and every week. I just figure they'll work me in because I missed all of training camp.
"Last week was my first week of practicing all year, so I figured they'd work me in. They can't just stick me in there and I play 60 snaps. That might be a bit much."
In other Colts news, the team released veteran cornerback Keiwan Ratliff and re-signed veteran cornerback Nick Graham, who originally signed with the team on October 8.
Graham, who played collegiately at Tulsa, originally signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as a rookie free agent shortly after the 2007 NFL Draft. He played 15 games for the Eagles last season and was released just before the 2008 regular season.
After signing Graham, the Colts released him last week before re-signing him this week.
"Keiwan's really helped us a punt returner," Dungy said. "Nick Graham we think can do some other things, especially on special teams. He's a young guy we just wanted to look at."
Ratliff, originally a second-round selection in the 2004 NFL Draft by Cincinnati, was claimed by the Colts off waivers last November. He was released by the Colts in September and re-signed on October 8. He has returned four punts for 24 yards this season.
Dungy said rookie wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who has returned five kickoffs for an 18.6-yard average, may move into the punt-returning role.
"We'll start with Pierre," Dungy said. "He's doing fine. We have some other options, but it will give him more of an opportunity to get the ball in his hands, too."
Also on Thursday, the Colts released their second injury report of the week, with running back Joseph Addai (hamstring), wide receiver Roy Hall (knee), cornerback Kelvin Hayden (knee), defensive end Robert Mathis (not injury-related/rested), safety Bob Sanders (knee), defensive end Dwight Freeney (not injury related-rested), cornerback Marlin Jackson (shoulder) and defensive tackle Dan Muir (not injury related-illness) listed as not participating.
"I think we're really at the same point we were last week," Dungy said. "If you had to guess right now with Joseph, Roy Hall, Bob Sanders, Kelvin Hayden – all four of those guys you'd say, 'Probably not.' We'll see by the end of the week how practice goes, but we're planning on going without them right now."
Gijon Robinson, a starting tight end/h-back the first five games of the season who missed last week's loss to Green Bay with an ankle injury, "is doing well," Dungy said.
"He feels like he's ready to go," Dungy said. "That's one that's probably different than last week."