Colts GM: Sharpening Iron Down The Stretch

Intro: The Colts bye week is in its final stages with players reconvening to the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center on Monday. What is the message from General Manager Ryan Grigson as the 6-3 Colts gear up for the stretch run?

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INDIANAPOLIS – The dream is to hoist.

And as the Colts return from their bye week to ramp up the continued journey to lift that Lombardi Trophy and dance under the confetti, they have no plans for another vacation until after February 1, 2015.

Ryan Grigson has helped build teams that have hoisted it (1999 St. Louis Rams) and the Colts General Manager knows just how valuable this time of year is. He's played a vital role in orchestrating the construction of three Super Bowl teams and has seen first hand what it takes to be playing in February.

The Colts bye week has come and passed.

Now, it's time to prepare for a stretch run that he hopes doesn't culminate until a trip to Arizona comes to fruition.

In the last six weeks, the Colts have been the victors on five such occasions and now the task becomes sustaining that momentum into the final seven weeks and beyond.

"I think just maintaining a strong focus and determination to be the best we can possibly be each and every day," Grigson says of the keys down the stretch. "It's tough to win in this league but in order to have zero regrets, we always have to give maximum effort in terms of the mental and physical preparation for each and every opponent week in, week out.

"The coaches give the players everything they need to be successful in terms of the overall blue print and our owner supplies them with all the resources needed. So there is really no excuse for guys not reaching their ceilings of development or being the best they possibly can be because they really have everything and more to do so in this environment. Believe me, this is truly a great place to come to work every morning and that goes a long way during a 16-week plus grind."

A behind the scenes look at the Colts locker room following the win over the Bengals!

Players will reconvene on Monday morning as preparations commence for the final seven games of the regular season.

The Colts will hold a two-game, AFC South lead coming out of their bye week as the schedule now dwindles through the final two months. A conference has never been so competitive this late in the year with 11 AFC Teams currently sitting with at least five wins.

Between now and the end of December, teams will watch their chances of hoisting that Lombardi evaporate while others will ascend towards January and the playoffs.

As recent history has shown, there's no denying the importance of heading into the postseason with momentum.

Of the last 10 teams to play in the Super Bowl, they have combined to win more than 70 percent of their games from the bye week through the end of the regular season.

Grigson has always preached the vital importance of playing at a high level as the season grinds on.

That starts now.

"First of all you have to come back and flip a switch and realize the bye is over and it's now time to laser focus," the Colts third-year General Manager says. "There's no re-entry or re-acclimation period. You hit the ground running the minute your feet hit the floor on Monday morning.

"Byes can come at different times every year and I feel the timing of this one is very good being pretty much at our halfway point. Guys are beat up mentally and physically and need some time to recuperate so they have the juice to make that very important push into the postseason and beyond. I personally don't feel four days can heal all wounds encountered to this point, that's why mental toughness is what truly separates the men from the boys in this league. At this point in the season you're never going to feel like a spring chicken. Just look at Reggie (Wayne), he's got braces for his braces out there but he puts so much blood, sweat and tears into this thing in terms of doing what it takes to be successful, despite how beat up he is. It's a mindset and it's great that we have a guy like him to point to and say to everyone else, "Hey, this is how it's done man and this is the approach you have to take if you want to be a champion. Period."

Striving to be a champion once again reaches the national spotlight next Sunday for the Colts.

For the 14th time since division realignment in 2002, the Colts and the New England Patriots will clash.

In those previous meetings, the two teams have brought a combined record of 220-70 (.759 winning percentage) into those contests with primetime, November matchups seeming to be a given.

"There's no way to downplay this game or its importance in terms of our season and the growth of our program moving forward," Grigson says of next Sunday's tilt.

"They have beat us handily both times we've played them out in New England and we now face them in our own building. I am fully aware of the past battles and just the really great games that have been played between both franchises. They are a great team and organization and one that honestly the rest of the league seems to be measured by each year. It's a very meaningful encounter, one I know that is especially important to our owner and our fans."

After not playing the Patriots at home since 2009, the Lucas Oil faithful will finally get another front row look at one of the game's greatest rivalries.

One of the more iconic games over the past decade occurred in the last Colts/Patriots meeting at Lucas Oil Stadium. An 8-0 Colts team preserved their undefeated regular season with a late fourth-and-two stop, before Reggie Wayne scored the game-winning touchdown with 13 seconds left, completing a 17-point, fourth-quarter comeback.

Next Sunday night, the corner of South and Capitol streets will once again be a raucous entrance.

Back in 2012, the Colts dazzled their home fans with a thrilling victory over the Packers and then closed out the regular season, with their head coach back on the sideline, by knocking off the AFC South Champions thus completing a historic regular season turnaround from two wins to 11.

Last year, the buildup of games against the Seahawks and Broncos led to victories over two teams that ended up playing to "hoist it."

The magnitude of the upcoming game will certainly match those previous 60-minute bouts.

For a fan base that hasn't seen their team play at home in nearly a month, 11/16/2014 has the potential to be one fans won't soon forget.

"It will be electric and these type of games are the reason you play this sport in the first place," Grigson says.

"We need our 12th man to save their vocal cords all week for Sunday night. I know they will be even louder than usual for this one because of the great rivalry and the history involved. Just like we need to bring our "A" game to have a chance against this great opponent we also need our 12th man to bring their best and shake that building like they've done for us in the past."

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