After Christmas Day Off, Colts Return to Practice to Prepare for Tennessee
INDIANAPOLIS – A day later, it was time to return to normal.
And Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said while it was good to get something that is rare in the NFL – an entire day off for Christmas on Thursday – he said it was equally imant to continue preparing for the task at hand:
The regular-season finale.
"It was nice to get a full day off," Dungy said Friday as the Colts (11-4) prepared to play the AFC South champion Tennessee Titans (13-2) in the regular-season finale at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Sunday at 1 p.m.
"It doesn't happen very often in our business. I think our players took advantage of it. Now, our task is to get back and get our rhythm regained. We're looking forward to the weekend."
Dungy said that was true not only because of the season finale, but because the Colts on Sunday night will learn their opponent in the first round of the postseason.
The Colts, who qualified for the postseason as a Wild Card, will play at the AFC West champion in an AFC Wild Card Playoff game January 3-4. San Diego (7-8) will play host to Denver (8-7) at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Cal., Sunday, with the winner winning the West.
The NFL has yet to announce the date or time of the first-round games.
Also on Friday, the Colts released their third injury report of the week, with middle linebacker Gary Brackett (fibula) and running back Dominic Rhodes (chest) declared out for Sunday's game. Safety Melvin Bullitt (shoulder), defensive tackle Keyunta Dawson (hip), defensive end Dwight Freeney (not injury related-rested), linebacker Freddy Keiaho (hamstring), defensive end Robert Mathis (not injury related-rested), safety Bob Sanders (knee) and running back Chad Simpson (ankle) also listed as not participating in practice this week.
Bullitt, Dawson, Keiaho, Sanders and Simpson are listed as questionable, with Dungy saying Friday Keiaho and Sanders likely will not play.
Dungy said with Rhodes out and Simpson questionable, the team may sign running back Lance Ball from the practice squad for the finale.
The Colts have won eight consecutive games to clinch a seventh consecutive playoff appearance, doing so despite key players such as Sanders, cornerback Marlin Jackson, cornerback Kelvin Hayden, Brackett, linebacker Tyjuan Hagler, Addai, Dawson, center Jeff Saturday and guard Ryan Lilja – all of whom started last season – missing extended time this season.
"You get to the point where as a coach you really don't notice it, because you plan and you plug guys in, whoever's ready to go," Dungy said. "I don't take for granted winning eight in a row anytime, but I do feel like you plug your guys in go and that those guys normally are going to play pretty well if they're we'll-trained. Our assistant coaches do a great job of doing (that).
"When I look back at years and you have the same starting lineup for 13 weeks out of 16 – those don't come by very often, so you do expect to have backup guys play. We talk about it from Day One of training camp. We talk about it from Day One of minicamp.
"I generally show them a tape of a game late in the year when we have five or six backup guys in who make big plays for us. We talk about it from Day One when our young guys get here, that if they make the team they're going to be expected to contribute in some big situations."
Also on Friday, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning was named the FedEx Air NFL Player of the Week. Manning completed 29 of 34 passing attempts for 364 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-24 victory over Jacksonville on Thursday, December 18.