Colts Not Changing Anything Amidst AFC Championship Week
INDIANAPOLIS – The team's veteran core is still intact from the Colts' 2006 Super Bowl run, but there are many players who are preparing for their first conference championship game this weekend.
While players like Peyton Manning, Dwight Freeney and Jeff Saturday are quite familiar with games of this magnitude, there are 34 players on the Colts active roster who were not with the team for its Super Bowl championship in 2006.
Three of those players – kicker Matt Stover (Baltimore), safety Aaron Francisco (Arizona) and wide receiver Hank Baskett (Philadelphia) – have played in conference championship games before, but there are a significant amount of younger players who Head Coach Jim Caldwell is trying to prepare for a new experience this weekend.
"The big thing is, you try and keep things as normal as you possibly can in terms of our preparation," Caldwell said. "We believe in how we prepare, and the way we've prepared has been proven that if we do it, and do it right, it works for us."
The Colts coach said this week's main focus is on the "process" leading up to Sunday's game.
"Let's get in what we are supposed to get in terms of our techniques, fundamentals and assignments down, and then we can certainly be able to handle it once we are in the fray," he said.
Caldwell called it a "tremendous benefit" to have a player like Manning, a four-time MVP and a Super Bowl champion, and other veterans, on the team. Having been on the biggest stage before, they can relay advice to the team's less experienced players.
Fourteen of the team's 22 starters on offense and defense were with the Colts in 2006, but a majority of the team's reserves and special teams players have been added to the roster in the last three years.
Freeney said Caldwell has instructed players not to deviate from their routine and has asked them to stay grounded despite their ultimate goal being within reach.
"We know we've got one more game that we need to win to get the big one," Freeney said. "Let's keep doing things how we've always done them. If we keep doing the things we do on a consistent basis, we should be fine."
Several of the team's younger players said last week's victory over Baltimore in the Divisional Round of the AFC Playoffs helped them understand what the postseason is all about.
Cornerback Jacob Lacey called it a positive learning experience.
Wide receiver Austin Collie said it was a "completely different atmosphere, different intensity."
But that does not mean the team plans on changing the way it does things leading up to this Sunday's game.
"You have to take the same attitude you've had all season and not let the preparation or the magnitude of the game get to you," Collie said. "Just do your job and make sure you're not making any mistakes."
Just a year ago, Collie was at Brigham Young. Now, he is an NFL rookie just one game away from the Super Bowl, an opportunity veteran players dream of, and a position he said he never could have imagined.
In fact, the rookie said he rarely looks that far ahead, anyway. Collie said he never even looks two games forward, thanks to the team's level-headed locker room.
"They do a wonderful job of not letting us slack, take any time off or take any plays off," he said. "They are always there, behind us, pushing us and pushing themselves to have a great attitude every single day. Rookies like myself, Jerraud (Powers) and Pat (McAfee), we look at those guys and we just kind of follow in their footsteps.
"And they've done a wonderful job of setting those footsteps for us."
The Colts issued the first injury report of the week on Wednesday with the following players listed as full participation in practice: RB-Joseph Addai (shoulder), DEs-Ervin Baldwin (shin), Dwight Freeney (foot) and Robert Mathis (knee), LBs-Gary Brackett (calf) and Cody Glenn (back), DB-Melvin Bullitt (shoulder), OTs-Ryan Diem (elbow), Charlie Johnson (foot) and Tony Ugoh (knee), DT-Antonio Johnson (shoulder), OG-Jamey Richard (shoulder), TE-Jacob Tamme (ankle), K-Adam Vinatieri (right hip) and WR-Reggie Wayne (knee).
Listed as limited participation were DB-Antoine Bethea (back) and TE-Dallas Clark (illness), while DB-Jerraud Powers (foot) was listed as did not participate in practice.