Game Plan Installed, Colts Say They Feel Ready as They Prepare to Leave for Super Bowl XILV
INDIANAPOLIS – In a very real sense, Sunday will be real, real strange.
Kelvin Hayden, the Colts' fifth-year veteran cornerback, said the team has been thorough enough in staying with its plan of preparing as if the Super Bowl were being played in two days rather than nine that he feels very, very . . .
Well, very prepared.
"If the game was Sunday, guys would be ready," Hayden said Friday as the AFC Champion Colts (16-2) prepared to play the NFC Champion New Orleans Saints (15-3) in Super Bowl XLIV at Sun Life Stadium in South Florida on February 7.
That was the whole idea behind the Colts' plan this week.
With Super Bowl Week and its distractions scheduled to begin Monday, and with the team scheduled to arrive that afternoon, Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said the objective was to make this past week – the Super Bowl bye week – as much like a normal game week as possible.
The Colts, who beat the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game this past Sunday, held an informational meeting Tuesday to address with players and staff issues such as tickets travel and accommodations, but when players arrived for practice Wednesday, the schedule had a regular-season feel.
"We've been preparing as if it (the Super Bowl) was Sunday," Colts defensive end Raheem Brock said
The Colts installed the game plan this week, and practiced Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as they would a regular- or post-season game week. They also met with the media at regular times.
"We're ready," Colts offensive tackle Charlie Johnson said. "We did everything we would do as if we were preparing for a Sunday game. This week was no different than a Week 4 game.
"It is going to feel weird not having to play."
Johnson, the Colts' starter at left tackle this season, played an extensive role as a rookie in the Colts' victory over the Chicago Bears in February of 2007. He said routine in preparing for the NFL's biggest game – and one of the biggest games of a player's career – is imant.
And that routine starts well before the plane leaves for the Super Bowl destination.
"I know me, personally, I've stuck to the same schedule as far as what I would do," said Johnson, who relieved Ryan Diem at right tackle in the first half of the Colts' 29-17 victory over Chicago in Super Bowl XLI.
Having the game plan in place – and having reviewed it and prepared in "game mode" the previous week – is critical because of the early-week distractions of the Super Bowl, players said Friday. The Colts arrive Monday afternoon, not a normal travel day in the NFL, then the following day – typically an off day in the NFL – is Super Bowl Media Day, one the most decidedly "non-normal" day in professional sports.
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said on Friday the rest of the week will be comparatively normal, with practices beginning slightly later than they would in Indianapolis. Caldwell also said there will be a curfew, and it will get earlier as the week progresses, but he declined to specify hours.
Distractions, while expected, don't have to be a team's downfall, Caldwell said, and with the Colts' experience in big games, prime-time games and unusual schedules in recent seasons, he said he doesn't expect the peripheral elements of Super Bowl week to be a problem.
"We've been a good road team," Caldwell said. "We can adjust and certain things are going to happen. Not everything is going to be perfect. You're going to have a little glitch in the schedule here and there, but our guys have grown accustomed to handling a little bit of adversity. That's the difference, if you can handle those things and adjust – if you can keep your focus and in terms of our practice and preparation, you're going to be fine.
"We have not shown a propensity to having any difficulties with changes, and I do not anticipate handling it any differently when we go down there."
Brock, an eight-year veteran and one of nearly 20 active Colts who played in Super Bowl XLI, said while experience may not be a difference on Sunday, it doesn't hurt in knowing how to prepare for either the game or the week. He also said he will take at least some time to notice his surroundings.
"I'm going to enjoy being out of this cold weather," Brock said. "I'm ready to see some palm trees and the beach."
Guard Ryan Lilja, who started Super Bowl XLIV, said the Colts are a team that's big on habit and routine anyway.
"The schedule has been made that way," Lilja said. "Now we have practice on Sunday instead of a game on Sunday. Other than that, it's the same – reps in practice – everything's similar. I like that. I don't like changing things up. On the offensive line, a lot of guys are scared of change.
"We're creatures of habit: 'Let's keep it the same and as different as this week is and next week's going to be, let's try our best to keep it as similar as possible.'"
Lilja, like Hayden and other Colts players, agreed with Johnson that things have been so close to normal that not having a normal finish will be one of the few unusual aspects of the week.
"You have a routine, and every day at a certain time, you do this and this and this," Colts defensive end Robert Mathis said. "When Sunday comes and you don't have a game to play, you start getting the jitters."
Said Hayden, "It's crazy. I was thinking the same thing. You're preparing for the weekend, by Saturday, we're off. Then, Sunday, we don't have a game. But the extra preparation we've been doing is going to help us come next Sunday."
The Colts issued Friday's injury report with the following players listed as probable for Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday, February 7: RBs-Joseph Addai (shoulder) and Mike Hart (ankle), DBs-Antoine Bethea (back), Aaron Francisco (hand) and Jamie Silva (hand), LBs-Gary Brackett (knee) and Ramon Humber (knee), WRs-Austin Collie (foot) and Reggie Wayne (knee), OTs-Ryan Diem (elbow), Charlie Johnson (foot) and Tony Ugoh (knee), DT-Antonio Johnson (shoulder), DE-Robert Mathis (shoulder), OG-Jamey Richard (shoulder), TE-Jacob Tamme (ankle) and K-Adam Vinatieri (right hip).
Listed as questionable are RB-Donald Brown (foot), DBs-Melvin Bullitt (knee) and Jerraud Powers (foot) and DE-Dwight Freeney (ankle).