INDIANAPOLIS — Injuries are guaranteed to happen in each and every NFL game, so for any player or coach to look at them as a surprise or anything approaching an excuse, they know, would be foolish.
The Indianapolis Colts certainly aren't using their injuries — and there have been many this season — as an excuse for their performance this season. Now at 3-5 after their 30-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, many other issues — such as execution and fundamentals — are to blame for the slow start.
But after the Colts, once again, saw several key contributors go down with injuries on Sunday, the issue has got to be difficult to ignore completely — at least behind the scenes.
Among those who were injured and didn't return against the Chiefs were No. 1 cornerback Vontae Davis and starting right tackle Joe Reitz, each of whom suffered concussions, as well as linebacker Josh McNary (burner) and No. 3 wide receiver Jacoby Brissett, who suffered what appeared to be a leg injury at the end of the game.
Also suffering injuries but returning to the field on Sunday were No. 1 wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) and starting free safety Mike Adams (groin), who sported a noticeable limp in the locker room after the game.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano confirmed the concussions for Davis and Reitz after the game, but provided no further injury updates.
The injury bug wasn't just limited to the Colts' sideline on Sunday, however. Chiefs starting quarterback Alex Smith left the game and was evaluated for a concussion, then returned, and then came back in and hit his head on the turf once more on a read-option play; at that point, he was ruled out with a concussion. Their starting running back, Spencer Ware, was also knocked out of the game with a concussion.
Asked about the rash of injuries suffered by the Colts this season, cornerback Darius Butler pointed to those two key losses for the Chiefs on Sunday as Exhibit A why those in Indianapolis can't outwardly use team health as an excuse for their performance.
"Every locker room's going through injuries," Butler said. "They lost their starting quarterback today; their best running back wasn't in the game. So injuries are never an excuse. Anybody that puts on that uniform and gets onto the field is trusted to do their job, and that's what we expect moving forward."
Perhaps the biggest loss coming out of Sunday's game for the Colts is that of Davis, who was ruled out with a concussion after suffering the injury early in the second quarter on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Nick Foles to Travis Kelce.
Davis had missed the first two weeks of the season with an ankle sprain, but returned Week 3 against the San Diego Chargers and appeared to be getting back to his Pro Bowl form, notching his first interception two weeks ago against the Houston Texans.
When Davis went down on Sunday, the Colts turned to Rashaan Melvin, a fourth-year veteran who they signed at the beginning of the season after a rash of injuries had ravaged the Indianapolis secondary.
Melvin responded to the tune of six total tackles — finishing tied for second on the team — showing, once again, that he can come in and do the job when needed for the Colts' defense.
"Listen: it's Week 8. I've been coming in the game since Week 1. So nothing changes," Melvin said. "Obviously it's next guy up, and I'm the next guy up, so I just go out there and do what I've always been doing and make plays and compete at a high level and then contribute to my team and hopefully come out with the win.
"Unfortunately, we didn't get the win today," he continued. "We pride ourselves on preparing, and I prepare like a starter. My main goal is to be a starter, so, like I said, it's next man up. I'm preparing like a starter."
Melvin said no backup player roots for those ahead of them to be knocked out of a game, but when that does happen, there's no time to be wide-eyed and think about the scenario: you have to be ready to go.
"At the end of the day, it's all about preparing like you're going to be ready to play, and if somebody goes down — you want those guys to get back as fast as they can so they can contribute to the team — but if something does happen, it's the next man up," he said. "If you're here, you're here to play and you need to make plays to help the team win."
The Colts have another tall task staring them in the face next week, when they travel to Green Bay to take on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
But instead of worrying about who might not be suiting up for the game, those on the team say its critical to move on with a plan for those who will, for sure, be playing.
"Next guy up," Butler said. "The other guy, he's been in practice, he's been in meetings, hopefully preparing like a starter all week, and when his number's called you just have to go out there and execute."