How does an NFL team deal with a steady stream of players going on the Reserve/COVID-19 list in the days before a game?
That's the question Episode 7 of "Hard Knocks In Season: The Indianapolis Colts" brings us inside the walls of the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center to answer. In a revealing – and telling – clip, offensive coordinator Marcus Brady informs head coach Frank Reich that All-Pro left guard Quenton Nelson tested positive for COVID-19, ruling him out of the Colts' Week 16 game against the Arizona Cardinals.
"We're good," Reich tells his coaching staff. "… Love moments like this, right? I mean, I'm not happy about Q testing positive but I love overcoming those things."
Over in the offensive line's meeting room, O-line coach Chris Strausser tells his players after Nelson and right guard Mark Glowinski were ruled out with COVID that they'll be fine, too.
"By far the best group I've ever coached in terms of depth – starting five, depth behind that," Strausser says. "So we're good. We're good to roll, right? There's no question in my mind we're going to go in there and kick those guy's a—."
Fast-forward to gameday, and "Hard Knocks" gives us a look at two head coaches commiserating about the NFL's surge in COVID cases – which linebacker Darius Leonard, wide receiver Zach Pascal and safety Khari Willis became a part of on gameday.
"The guys that tested positive today tested negative when they first got up," Reich tells Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury. "But then they weren't feeling well and so we had to go back and caught it the second time around."
One of the best parts of Episode 7, though, is the speech wide receiver T.Y. Hilton gave after the Colts revealed their seven Pro Bowl players. Hilton congratulated his teammates and told them to cherish the honor, but also made sure the Colts knew they couldn't rest on their laurels with the Cardinals looming – even if Arizona was coming off consecutive losses, one of which was to the Detroit Lions.
"What it also mean is we got the players," Hilton says. "What it also mean is we got the team. What it also mean is we got the coaches. We got the three major pieces to get to where want to get to. Now let's put the pieces to the puzzle and let's put it together.
"Last week? That was a great win. We gotta throw that s— out the window. Because this team we're about to play, they're coming off two losses. And they're at home. So they're gonna protect it. So if we want it, we gotta bring it. So we have to match their intensity – no, no. They gotta match our intensity from the get go. So let's bring that s—."
We've heard all year from players and coaches about how significant an impact Hilton's leadership has made on the Colts. "Hard Knocks" gave us an opportunity to see it.
Anybody else ready to run through a brick wall for T.Y.?
I couldn't quite hear all the lyrics to Colts Director of Football Research John Park's freestyle rap, but here's my best shot at them:
Colts climb steadily, stepping up the resume
Started at the bottom but responded with some better play
Satisfied, something we would never say
Gonna set the record straight, say Okereke
Single minded, all we know is 1 and 0
O-line gonna set the tone, Carson run the show
Zach, Ash, Alie-Cox, Pittman like what's up now
JT (??) gonna truck him for that touchdown
Kenny, D, Rock, X take the ball away
Z, Nyheim, Rigo, Luke, Isaiah with special play
Dominate the competition every day
(?) Buck, Grove, Stally, (??) Kemoko, Kwity Paye
On the cusp since we got (??)
Ready to bust these doors down, one percent better but must
We fear God not anyone we play
Colts gonna run the table all of the way
If anyone can fill in some of the blanks, shoot me a tweet @JJStankevitz. Either way.
That. Was. Great.
Other Episode 7 Highlights:
- Carson Wentz's relationship with Frank Reich shined when Wentz brought up a fade route he threw against the Denver Broncos in 2017 – a Broncos team coached by Vance Joseph, who's now the Cardinals' defensive coordinator. Wentz remembers having a "borderline argument" with Reich about the concept, and after he threw a touchdown on the play, "I just pointed at you on the sideline," Wentz says to Reich.
- Hall of Famer Kevin Mawae on Quenton Nelson: "A lot of guys aren't that specific with how they prepare for the game. That's the thing that those are in the football life really take joy in watching." High praise.
- Will Fries' nickname is "Spud." Tremendous.
- What does it sound like when an offensive line coach is trying to get his guys to stop committing holding penalties? "We have to keep our hands inside or I will not be on the plane home," Strausser tells his group during the game. "If you want a new coach, go hold somebody. If you like me, keep your f—ing hands inside."
- Your weekly Bubba Ventrone Prediction Comes True update: "You said it was gonna end in hands," Reich says to Ventrone after Michael Pittman Jr. recovered Arizona's onside kick to seal the Colts' victory.