Colts Coach Says Winning Still Team's No. 1 Focus Sunday
INDIANAPOLIS – A new week is met with yet another new opponent for the Indianapolis Colts. But one thing that has stayed true through 14 weeks and 14 victories this season is the approach of the team's first-year head coach, Jim Caldwell.
As Caldwell has said throughout the season, and reiterated once again on Wednesday, the Colts are not preparing any differently for Sunday's final regular-season home game against the New York Jets than the one they played the week before.
"Every week we try and approach it the same way, and this one is no different," Caldwell said. "In everything we do, winning is extremely important. This is a competitive game with competitive people. You don't take the field with anything other than that in mind."
The Colts already have clinched their division title, as well as the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. On Monday, Caldwell said the team's unchanged schedule has helped players "stay focused and have their edge." While it is the team's plan to play its healthy players this week, Caldwell hinted Wednesday the decision might not be as simple as it sounds.
"This time of the year, we don't have one guy that doesn't have some sort of issue, not one guy," Caldwell said. "With this league, that's just the way it is. If you look at our injury report of late, you'd see it is a fairly long list. We take all of those things into consideration down the stretch."
Caldwell said he has been very frank with his players on how much they will play on Sunday and said he sees no advantage in keeping them in the dark.
"We deal with men here," he said. "We have a pretty veteran squad, and they understand it. I think I can speak plainly and bluntly on issues and they respond accordingly. We try and keep them as informed as we can."
Since recording a 35-31 victory at Jacksonville last Thursday, the Colts have had ample time to rest with the off weekend following the game. Caldwell said he thinks the weekend served almost as a mini-bye week, and he thinks the short break has benefited a number of the team's players.
"I do think right now we are getting better, and that's important," he said. "I think you can kind of see in practice guys who have an opportunity to play a little bit more are feeling better and know what to expect."
In addition to focusing in on fundamentals in practice, the Colts also are preparing to improve as a team in the next few weeks leading up to the playoffs.
"We are getting better in some respects, and I think that's key," Caldwell said. "You want to keep finding things you can focus in on and improve as a team, and I think we do that from week-to-week."
This week, the Colts have a bit of an unusual schedule with Christmas Day falling on a Friday, a typical practice day for the team.
"The holiday season is kind of difficult on the young guys. We talk about it, and we obviously had the same thing around Thanksgiving, but with family in town and etcetera, there is a lot going on," Caldwell said. "What we try and do is make certain we talk to them about it and try and tell them, 'Yes, we want to spend time with family and do all of the things we like to do at this time of the year, but we also can't lose our focus.'"
Caldwell said in years past the team has been able to rearrange its schedule since the holiday has fallen on a Tuesday or Wednesday, but with Christmas occurring on a Friday this year the Colts are wary of losing their rhythm.
"What we're doing is we are giving the guys an opportunity to be with their young kids and stay at home for a little while (on Christmas Day)," Caldwell said. "They have a couple of hours with the kids, but like I told most of them, 'You'll be ready to come in around 8 a.m.,' because if they are anything like my kids when they were young, my kids were up at four or five in the morning."
Following Friday's practice, the Colts players and coaching staff will have an opportunity to go home and spend the holiday with their families.
The Colts coach said the holiday week is made easier by the team's veteran core and experienced coaching staff, which Caldwell said has been "outstanding" all year.
"We are blessed to have a great group of coaches here. I haven't added up their years of experience and knowledge, but it is vast," he said.
Caldwell named every coach by name and said his staff is composed of coaches who "have been around the block and understand how we want to get things done."
"To have the opportunity to be a part of a staff of knowledgeable men, with very few things that shake them and not a lot of confusion, means we are all on the same page," Caldwell said. "It makes for very productive adjustments, and therefore, very productive play."
The Colts issued Wednesday's injury report with the following players listed as full participation in practice: RBs-Joseph Addai (knee), Donald Brown (chest), Mike Hart (ankle) and Chad Simpson (chest), DBs-Antoine Bethea (foot), Melvin Bullitt (shoulder), Aaron Francisco (ankle), Tim Jennings (ankle) and Jacob Lacey (biceps), LB-Gary Brackett (foot), 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).
Listed as did not participate in practice were: DEs-Keyunta Dawson (knee), Dwight Freeney (abdomen) and Robert Mathis (quad), WRs-Pierre Garcon (hand) and Anthony Gonzalez (knee), OT-Charlie Johnson (foot), LBs-Freddy Keiaho (personal) and Clint Session (knee) and DB-Jerraud Powers (hamstring).