Colts' Gonzalez Placed on Injured Reserve; Vinatieri Eyes Return
INDIANAPOLIS – A trying season for wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez came to an end Thursday when the Colts announced they had placed the third-year veteran on Injured Reserve.
"It was a tough decision," Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "He has worked so hard. It was a difficult struggle for him. He had a lot of ups and downs in terms of his rehab. He was never able to get where he was comfortable and able to perform."
Gonzalez, who has been inactive since suffering a knee injury in Week 1 against Jacksonville, spoke about the difficult process.
"All the things we had heard and hoped for were that it would have been healed a long time ago," he said. "Every time I thought I was getting close, I'd have some sort of setback."
The team's first-round draft choice in 2007 said he was "incredibly disappointed" to be missing the rest of the season, but is excited about how the team has performed in his absence.
"It's obviously exciting to be around when everybody is playing so well, we have the record that we do and the situation that we're in," Gonzalez said. "Obviously, it would be a lot better to be out there, but that's not in the cards for me this year."
Gonzalez entered the season as the team's No. 2 wide receiver behind Reggie Wayne, and in his three seasons with the club, Gonzalez has started 12 of 30 games, totaling 94 receptions for 1,240 yards and seven touchdowns.
Gonzalez said he is hopeful his injury will not require any more surgery and said he plans on assisting the teams' younger players the rest of the season.
"Austin (Collie) and I talk quite a bit. The thing about the young guys is that they are pretty darn good. I don't know that I can help them much, but certainly if they have questions, I'll be here to answer them," he said.
"He'll challenge the young guys to keep up with him in terms of drill work and hand/eye coordination," Caldwell said. "He loves the game. He loves to be around it and loves to talk about it. His presence for the young guys will help tremendously."
Despite not playing, the wide receiver said there is plenty he can still focus on, such as improving his hands and further learning the offense. Gonzalez also added he is not dwelling on what he cannot do.
"That's not going to help me, not one bit," he said. "But, if I become great at the things I can do right now, then once running and cutting comes back into the fold, we'll cross that bridge, too."
VINATIERI EYES POSSIBLE RETURN
Caldwell said the team will have a better idea as the week goes on whether kicker Adam Vinatieri will return this Sunday after missing action since Week 5 with a right knee injury.
The 14-year NFL veteran said he could handle some of the team's placekicking duties this weekend against the New York Jets.
"I'm doing alright, every day I'm progressing," Vinatieri said. "I've been working my butt off for the last 10 weeks to try and get out there. I'm going to practice this week, and barring any setbacks, hopefully I'll be out on the field wearing a jersey this weekend."
Vinatieri said his return is pending on his progressing health and an ability to handle "the workload" of kicks in practice.
"I think we are going to be able to get a feel of that in the next couple of days in practice and on Sunday," Vinatieri said. "And if everything goes well, we'll go forward from there."
Having won three Super Bowls, Vinatieri is no stranger to winning teams. But that did not make standing on the sidelines the past two months any easier on the team's veteran kicker.
"I'm happy the team has continued to do so well and we are in the playoffs … but standing on the sideline and being a spectator is always tough," he said.
Filling in for Vinatieri has been his "good friend," Matt Stover. The 20-year veteran, who eclipsed 2,000 career points two weeks ago, has made 9-of-11 field goals for the Colts this season.
"He's doing a great job and he's a great professional," Vinatieri said. "To be doing it for 20 years and do it as well he does, I know the team is in good hands."
ON FIRE IN THE RED ZONE
As good as the Colts offense has been this season, it has been ever better inside the red zone.
The unit continues to make defenses pay for red zone possessions. Led by the best passing game and fourth-highest scoring offense in the NFL, the Colts have scored touchdowns on 33-of-50 (66 percent) red zone possessions this year, the second-best average in the league.
Over their last six games, however, the offense has taken its proficiency to another level, scoring 17 touchdowns on its last 21 attempts (81 percent).
A big reason Indianapolis has been able to continue its successful regular season is the offense's ability to not only score in the red zone, but score touchdowns.
"We always stress that when we get in the red zone, we have to score touchdowns," tight end Dallas Clark said. "It is so hard to get in the red zone, and it's so hard to move the ball. When you get that close, you have to capitalize."
This week's opponent, the Jets, boast the top overall defense in the league.
"They've held a lot of good offenses out of the end zone in the red zone, (including) the Saints and a couple of other teams," quarterback Peyton Manning said. "It will be a great challenge."
The Colts issued Thursday's injury report with the following players listed as full participation in practice: DBs-Antoine Bethea (foot), Aaron Francisco (ankle), Tim Jennings (ankle) and Jacob Lacey (biceps), LBs-Gary Brackett (foot) and Freddy Keiaho (personal), RBs-Donald Brown (chest), Mike Hart (ankle) and Chad Simpson (chest), OTs-Ryan Diem (foot) and Tony Ugoh (knee), QB-Peyton Manning (glute), OG-Jamey Richard (shoulder), K-Adam Vinatieri (right knee) and WR-Reggie Wayne (foot).
DB-Melvin Bullitt (shoulder) and DE-Dwight Freeney (abdomen) were listed as limited participation, while the following players were listed as did not participate in practice: RB-Joseph Addai (personal), DEs-Keyunta Dawson (knee) and Robert Mathis (quad), WR-Pierre Garcon (hand), OT-Charlie Johnson (foot), DB-Jerraud Powers (hamstring) and LB-Clint Session (knee).