INDIANAPOLIS –In a sport of many regimens, one most preferred by players and coaches is the seven-day life cycle.
Preparation and recovery are two vital phases of competing successfully, and an interruption in that seven-day routine is a grind.
The Colts and Jaguars will square off in a divisional re-match on Thursday night. Jacksonville hopes to rubber-stamp the result of September 23 when it produced a 22-17 victory in Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis wants to end a three-game series losing streak to Jacksonville, the longest endured by the Colts to any divisional foe since the 2002 inception of the AFC South.
What will occur is that the teams will wage battle after playing on Sunday, and the five-day cycle is one that is tough for both teams.
"It does but once it's done, you have a long week to rest up and prepare for the next opponent," said safety Antoine Bethea about if playing on Thursdays presents a challenge for players. "Every team has it. You deal with it. Just get ready."
This marks the fifth straight season the Colts have played an AFC South opponent on a Thursday evening. The most recent one was memorable for Indianapolis as it earned a 19-16 win over Houston last December 22 in closing out the home schedule. It was the second win for the Colts in five days last year. The team topped Tennessee, 27-13, five days earlier.
The Colts were fortunate in 2011 to play two home games in that five-day span. An added wrinkle this year finds Indianapolis traveling on Wednesday to reach the game site. The travel element heightens the challenge.
"There's no doubt. The recovery time from Sunday to Thursday is ridiculous, especially after playing a very physical game, and then to have to travel," said Arians. "When you add the travel in…it's tough."
Practice time this week was amended to Monday and Tuesday, and the pace at which those are being held does not replicate a normal week. Coaches held meetings at times even more odd in planning for a division game of importance.
"The mental part of it, it's taxing on us also," said Arians on Monday afternoon. "We just started our meetings for Wednesday. We're in a special teams meeting right now. We'll get through our Wednesday practice today (Monday). We'll take that into (Tuesday), which will be a combination of Thursday/Friday practice, have another walk-through on Wednesday and then jump on the plane.
"It is what it is, and we all have to deal with it. That's what we're going to do."
While the sport is played week-to-week and past performance relates very little to the next contest, Indianapolis has been successful on Thursdays. The club has a record of 8-1-1 on Thursdays, with all but one of those games played during the franchise's Indianapolis era.
The first-ever such game was a Thanksgiving Day appearance in 1965, a 24-24 tie with Detroit. The Colts have played twice on Thanksgiving in recent years, earning a 41-9 win at Detroit in 2004 and a 31-23 win at Atlanta in 2007.
Indianapolis topped Philadelphia, 37-10, in the RCA Dome in 1996. Indianapolis won in Kansas City, 35-28, in 2001, but fell at New England, 27-24, in opening the 2004 season.
Prior to beating Houston last year in the run of AFC South Thursday battles, the Colts won in Tennessee in 2010, 30-28. The Colts and Jaguars met on December Thursday nights in Jacksonville in 2008 and 2009. The Colts won both times, 31-24 and 35-31.
Defensive end Cory Redding played in six Thanksgiving games while with Detroit, and he will draw on related experience for the five-day cycle.
"Being drafted by Detroit and playing there for six years prepared me for this. You have to be ready for a short week," said Redding. "It's more mental than physical. We have to move on to Jacksonville. We'll get on the tape, get all the little corrections and the emphasis that they (coaches) have and prepare for them on the field with walk-throughs and different things just to get you in the right place to make plays.
"It's more mental than it is physical, and you just have to prepare. It's all about emotion and energy and giving it your all."
Quarterback Andrew Luck will see Jacksonville for a second time. Luck should be like other players who now have a familiarity with a past opponent that will help in understanding how to approach a second meeting. Still, having only five days to prepare mandates change.
"I think cram a little more," said Luck of this week's mental approach. "I think it's advantageous for both teams that we've played each other already. It works for both teams in that sense. It's my first experience with it (a short week). I'll definitely try and get a sense from the coaches and older guys how to best approach it. I think a little more cramming and just speed up the process.
"From what I've heard so far, you really have to dedicate these three days to football – Monday Tuesday, Wednesday. Not much free time. (You) really cram because it is so much quicker and you're forcing your body to adjust."
Luck joked he is fortunate that at age 23 his body might adapt easier to the accelerated pace than it will for a more seasoned veteran.
When asked how long it took for his body to feel normal again, Bethea, a seventh-year pro who has 754 career tackles, referred to the preferred seven-day cycle for when he feels it is optimal to play.
"Sunday, walking into the stadium (laughs)," said Bethea of when he is ready. "It takes a couple of days. Around Friday, that's when you're really getting your legs back under you. Sunday when that whistle blows to kickoff, that's when you're really feeling the best you're going to feel."