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Week 10, Bengals at Colts


Bill Polian, in his 13th season as Colts president, has a resume unique in the NFL. The only man to win NFL Executive of the Year six times, Polian in the 1980s built the Buffalo Bills into a four-time Super Bowl participant. In the mid-1990s, he built the expansion Carolina Panthers into a team that made the NFC Championship Game in its second season, 1996. Since joining Indianapolis in 1998, he built the Colts from a 3-13 team in 1997 and 1998 into one that has made the playoffs 10 of the last 11 seasons, including AFC Championship Game appearances after the 2003, 2006 and 2009 seasons, AFC South titles in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009, Super Bowl appearances following the 2006 and 2009 seasons and a Super Bowl championship following the 2006 season. Each week during the season, in The Polian Corner, Polian and will discuss issues pertinent to the Colts and the rest of the NFL.

Q: A 26-24 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday. What did you see when you reviewed the tape?
A: Quite a bit. I think the the thing you take away from the ballgame is we played awfully hard, given the quality of the opposition and what we had going for us in terms of the talent we had on the field. That was a real positive and we came within 20 yards or so of winning the ballgame assuming an Adam Vinatieri field goal, and that's always a good bet in those kinds of situations. We did not do defensively what we had to do, which was to limit the big plays. We said we couldn't give LeSean McCoy big plays in the running game. We gave him one to open the game for 62 yards. We said we couldn't give DeSean Jackson big plays in the passing game or the reverse game, and we gave them a number of those. We said we couldn't give Michael Vick big plays, and we did. They had a great plan against us, but in the end – like everything else – it usually comes down to defense, and we didn't get the job done defensively. That put us behind the eight ball.

*Q: Was there a point when the Colts wore down a bit in the second half?
*A: I don't think so. That was a pretty tough group of people we played against. They're a good team. No question about that. They were coming off their bye week and they had two weeks to prepare. They did a terrific job of that. They had a very sophisticated plan, which was well thought-out. They really attacked our weaknesses and where they had favorable match-ups as well.

Q: The Colts are accustomed perhaps to better records at the midway point, but to be 5-3 considering the circumstances is not a bad position . . .
A: Oh, no. This season is going 16 games. This division is going down to the last day. It's nice to have a great record, but it's more important to make the playoffs, so that's where our focus is. That is still very, very much in reach, and there are brighter days ahead. Not next week, and probably not the week after that, but as we head into late November and early December many of the injured players will be back. Our sights are firmly set on the weeks ahead, and we have to keep our heads above water here in the short run but in the long run, the picture is a lot brighter.

Q: Any update on wide receiver Austin Collie?
A: Austin is doing fine. He has all the residue of a concussion, but thank God nothing more than that. We'll see how he is Wednesday. There's nothing more than that. It looked very scary on the field, but he was sitting up and fine in the locker room afterward at halftime. It was a great relief to all of us, and I suspect he'll be back some time in the near future. I don't know if it will be this week or not, but we'll see as time goes by.

Q: With much of the depth gone, what's next for getting people into the lineup?
A: (Laughing) That's a good question. 'Next Man Up' – you wonder who the next man is. Is he out there? We're going to have to make a move or two – likely a player from the practice squad. Perhaps one we would pick up from elsewhere, but I think we still have a move or two we're going to have to make this coming week. We're down to as thin a situation as I've ever experienced in all my years in professional football, but that doesn't mean you throw in the towel. You have to keep on keeping on, and we will.

Q: What positions are you looking for in the NFL Draft next spring?
A: I think a lot depends on what the strength of the draft is. Right now, I've seen a number of players who interest me, and I know our scouts have a number of players they have their eyes on. I would think a lot depends, too, on what the labor situation is – whether we go forward, whether we have a lockout. A lot of that will determine where our focus lies. Right now it's a bit too early to tell. Certainly, you would look at any skill position player given the fact that we need depth at virtually all those positions, but I wouldn't rule out anything else either. That picture will clarify itself as we get closer to the end of the league year. So much of it is very iffy at this point in time because of the labor situation that I can't really hazard a guess at the moment.

Q: But the draft will occur whatever the situation, correct?
A: That's what we've been told. Now, stay tuned. There could be lots of legal machinations during this coming January and February. But right now we've been told the draft will go on as planned.

Q: Too early to know if it's a deep draft?
A: I would think that unless a player is absolutely convinced he is going in the first round or because he needs the money to go earn a living immediately – which may not even be the case – he'd be better served to stay in school. I don't think we're going to see the influx of juniors we did last year because most people seem to think there will be a new payment system for the rookies. That would mitigate against coming out. I've always been a firm believer that the players should stay in school and finish their eligibility, but we shall see. I don't think personally that there's as much incentive to come out as there has been in the past.

Q: Did you think the Eagles player who hit Collie should have been fined?
A: In my looking at the tape, and looking at the television replay that was made available to us in the press box, I thought it was an entirely accidental hit. I don't believe that the Eagle player had any intent whatsoever to hit Austin in the head. As a matter of fact, he was aiming lower than that, as he has been taught to do by their very fine defensive backfield coach, Dick Jauron. If there was helmet-to-helmet contact, and I could not tell on the television replay that I saw, it certainly didn't come anywhere near – not even in the same country – as the one in the New England-Baltimore game two or three weeks ago. It was purely accidental. It involves a very difficult situation for both offenses and defenses. When you throw down the middle against Cover 2, those kinds of collisions tend to take place. So, from my perspective even though Austin was injured on the play – and thank God not seriously – I saw no attempt whatsoever to launch or to injure in anyway.

Q: The term defenseless receiver comes into play – and it's kind of a gray area.
A: It really is gray. I have not seen or examined the television tape well enough to know whether or not the referee was correct in his determination that Austin's second foot had hit the ground. There was no question about possession before the hit. Whether or not his second foot had hit the ground and he was under the definition of the rule defenseless remains to be seen. I can't say that. That's one of the things that will be looked at in the league office at some length.

Q: When a kick returner knocks the ball out of the back of the end zone, is that ever a safety?
A: It becomes a safety if it's touched in bounds by the receiving team, which came very close to happening (Sunday).

Q: Have you sent a letter to the NFL about the number of Colts opponents who have been coming off bye weeks this season?
A: No, I have not. Mr. (Colts Owner and Chief Executive Officer Jim) Irsay mentioned it to me. Someone said to me Monday that we've faced four opponents coming off their byes. That must be a league record. What are you going to do about it? They're not going to change the schedule right now, so I don't see any point in writing a letter. We do have correspondence with the league office early in February when they ask us for scheduling preferences, closed dates in your facility and things of that nature. I will make mention of it then, but it won't do any good to make anything of it now, because they can't change it.

Q: With the receiving depth being depleted, any chance of bringing back former Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison?
A: It was interesting. Marvin was at the game Sunday. We got an opportunity to see him and say hello. It was a very joyous get together and sort of a homecoming for him with us. He was in the locker room with the players. It was great. I jokingly said to him in the tunnel before the game, 'Can you give us a quarter or a quarter and a half?' He said, 'No. I've got about three routes in me.' He laughed. I think the next time we see him is when he'll deservedly go on the Ring of Honor.

Q: He looks like he could step on the field and still play, though.
A: There's no question about it. That's what you would expect. As great an athlete as he was and is, he probably could play another four or five games if he absolutely had to, but once that knee injury cropped up, that sort of finished it for him. He went out on a high note and that's the right way.

Q: Did you get a chance to see former Colts cornerback Marlin Jackson, now on injured reserve with the Eagles?
A: I did not, and I'm very sorry I didn't get to see him. He had an awfully tough break. We talked on the telephone after he was injured in their mini-camp. I wished him well and told him how sorry we were about what happened and how we were all pulling for him, but I didn't get to see him and I'm sorry about that.

Q: If the Titans hadn't picked up wide receiver Randy Moss off waivers last week were the Colts interested?
A: We did talk about it. You have an obligation to do your due diligence in every situation. We recognized number one that it was a waiver situation, so the odds of our getting him were probably not very strong. We also thought he would go to Tennessee. That was kind of a foregone conclusion for all of us, and that's the way it worked out, but truthfully, had he been available to us we would not have pulled the trigger.

Q: Can you update the status of safety Bob Sanders?
A: The progress report is good. Bob is progressing very well with his rehabilitation. He's out in California working diligently on that. Very soon, within a week or so, he'll see Doctor (James) Andrews and Doc Andrews will give him some status report and put him on very probably an accelerated rehab schedule. If that goes well, we'll hope to have him back for the stretch run. We'll see how it goes, but right now, all the signs are positive.

Q: What can you say about some of the recent practice squad-guys-turned-active roster players – guys like Chip Vaughn, Cornelius Brown and Andre Brown?
A: Both Cornelius and Chip did a terrific job on special teams, Cornelius returning kickoffs and covering and Chip doing a really good job covering. Cornelius has been with us about a month on the practice squad, and he's acclimating pretty well. We think there's a future for him. He's a big, tough guy who can run and he has return skills as well as being a pretty good cover guy. We like what we see there. Chip is a big, physical safety who can run. He can play in the box when you're going to put eight in the box and mix it up in the run game. He does very well on special teams, so we were excited to have him. Andre has been on the practice squad for a little bit. He's a big, tough running back who we dressed Sunday as a third back because we were afraid to go into the ballgame with Donald Brown coming off the hamstring issue. We didn't want to just go in there with two backs and not be able to finish in the running game if disaster struck. Lord knows it struck everywhere else. Why not at running back? He did a good job for us, and I think he figures going forward as well even when some of our other backs get healthy.

Q: Can rookie running back Javarris James catch screen passes or is he strictly a runner?
A: He can catch quite well. Every back we have can catch the ball pretty well. It's part of the job description. He could do it quite well and based on how he performed Sunday, he'll get more opportunities as we go forward. Now, we can't wait to get Joseph Addai and Mike Hart back, but you never can have enough running backs, and he acquitted himself well.

Q: Any idea when Addai and Hart might get back?
A: I think when you talk about San Diego and Dallas – that grouping of 10 days (in late November and early December) – is probably the target area for the vast majority of the fellows that are out right now. That's the area where we're going to begin to become a much healthier football team. Maybe some will be sooner. There might be a guy or two later, but that general area – from San Diego through Dallas – is where we're hoping to have most of the guys who are injured back. It's not that far away, and that's a really good stretch run right there. If we could have most of our team back and healthy and playing by San Diego, we feel like we can make a pretty good run down the stretch. With the exception of Dallas, those are all division opponents and conference opponents, so that's an important stretch of games for us.

Q: The rule that has reversed several apparent touchdown receptions this season – it seems to be inconsistent with the rule that allows a touchdown when a runner "breaks the plane" at the goal line. Can you explain?
A: I'm going to give you the correct answer, but it's not the logical answer. No one ever said the National Football League rules were grounded in a lot of logic. When a runner breaks the plane, the runner by definition is in possession of the ball. Once he crosses the plane of the goal line with the ball in his possession, anything that happens after that is moot because it is a touchdown – the key being possession. He is in possession of the ball as he breaks the plane of the goal line. With a reception, a reception by definition is not deemed to be completed, and the receiver is not deemed have possession of the ball, until he "finishes the catch." Now, "finishes the catch" is deemed to mean that if he goes to the ground – either because he is pushed by a defender or because he falls on his own – that he must maintain possession through his contact with the ground. There is a good reason for that. That is because if the officials do not have a clear view of the receiver hitting the ground they don't know whether he may or may not have juggled the ball, or if the ball may have hit the ground so receivers are taught, 'Show the official the ball. If you go to the ground, show the receiver the ball.' Now, people are going to say, 'Why can't you handle that on instant replay?' The answer to that is very simple: We do not write rules for instant replay – simply because unlike the colleges, we have a challenge system. Every play is not reviewed. As a matter of fact, only six may be reviewed by challenges in the most optimum circumstances throughout the game. It's usually only four. We don't write rules to accommodate instant replay. If instant replay can help, that's fine, but we have to write rules the officials can officiate on the field. As a matter of philosophy, we want that done anyway. So, the receivers are taught, 'Finish the catch – show the official the ball – and you have to be in possession after you hit the ground.' A ball carrier crossing the goal line is deemed to be in possession – therein lies the difference.

Q: Up next, the Cincinnati Bengals. Their record isn't what many expected, but they have talent . . .
A: They do. They have a ton of weapons. You look at their stat sheet. Their record is 2-5 through seven games. Terrell Owens through seven games had 45 catches for 629 yards – a 14-yard average. That's very good by wide receiver standards and that would be a 100-catch season if you played it out over the course of a year. (Chad) Ochocinco has 39 catches and is averaging 11.7 (yards) a reception. That's very fine. Jordan Shipley, their wonderful rookie from the University of Texas, is averaging 14.5 yards a catch on 24 catches. Jermaine Gresham, their rookie tight end from Oklahoma, is averaging 6.9 on 29 catches. They have a lot of weapons. Cedric Benson is a terrific runner. He's averaging 3.8 yards a carry – 545 yards. And of course, Carson Palmer is a top-flight quarterback and a big, big powerful offensive line. Defensively, their secondary is playing very well. (Cornerback Leon) Hall has four interceptions. They have a total of nine for the season, so they take the ball away and they really do a wonderful job of playing tough, hard-nosed defense. This is a hard, physical team not unlike the bunch we saw in Philadelphia, and they're capable of coming with the same kinds of blitz packages. In many ways, a mirror image in the AFC of the team we saw in Philadelphia, the difference being of course that Carson is not the kind of out-of-the-box magic runner that Michael Vick is. But nonetheless, there are lots and lots of weapons and a very, very big physical football team.

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