Colts Vice President and General Manager Chris Polian on Monday discussed the Colts' 19-9 victory over Kansas City Sunday and other Colts- and NFL-related topics . . .
Q: A 19-9 victory for the Colts Sunday over the Kansas City Chiefs. What did you see when you reviewed the tape?
A: It was a good win. It was the type of game we expected, obviously. They (the Chiefs) have a lot of institutional knowledge in (Defensive Coordinator) Romeo Crennel and (Offensive Coordinator) Charlie Weis in how to attack us and how to play the game. We saw a similar plan to what we saw when those two coaches were in New England. We kind of had a feeling it was going to be a grind-it-out game, and they were going to try to shorten the game and make us work for it. It was a great win in terms of grinding it out, staying patient and being resilient and showing up and earning a win with four quarters of great effort.
Q: Kicker Adam Vinatieri converted four-of-four field goals. A great effort by the veteran kicker.
A: Starting with the first drive, they went for the onside kick and we got it. The ball had a lot of backspin on it and it didn't go 10 yards. We kind of got bogged down in the red zone there, but Adam was four- for-four. Even though it's three points, we're still getting ahead and I think it's the first time Adam's had a chance for a couple of long ones in the same game. It's still the same old Adam. When he goes out there, you just expect it to go through the uprights, and he does it. Doing all of those little things right throughout the course of the game add up when you get to the fourth quarter of a game like that.
Q: Kansas City stuck to its game plan and it got down to the second half, where it essentially was going to come down to who scored a touchdown first. Running back Joseph Addai went out with an injury, and backup Mike Hart got the game-clinching touchdown and seemed to play well.
A: Everybody knows what Mike was able to do in college (when he was the all-time leading rusher at the University of Michigan). He has had some opportunities here with us, and he has had some bad luck with injuries. He always has played well and then next play, he blew his knee out. Mike had a real good day of practice Wednesday, came in with a little bit of a knee issue afterward and did not practice the rest of the week. He was touch and go, and it was something we were really worried about. We had to juggle the roster late in the week and brought Javarris James in. Javarris dressed Sunday. Joseph has been gutting it out as he did Sunday, and Mike came in and produced like you would expect Mike Hart to. It was a grinding game. Obviously, we were going in a little nicked up. (Wide receiver) Austin (Collie) hadn't practiced a lot and Mike hadn't practiced a lot. A lot of different guys showed up and kept fighting throughout the day. Mike had some real, good physical runs and some real productive runs within his style. (Colts Head Coach) Jim (Caldwell) mentioned it Monday that Mike has been here long enough and he has been productive enough that when he goes in the game the offense doesn't have to adjust. He's very effective with pass protection. He's very effective running. Our full menu of offensive game plans still exists when he goes in the game. It still gives us a lot of options.
Q: The Colts also came up with a very big defensive stand inside the 20 early in the game.
A: Big stop, two plays in a row right there. First, they ran a sweep left on third down. It looked like it was going to open and (running back) Jamaal Charles was going to walk into the corner of the end zone. Here comes (Colts linebacker) Clint Session from the backside of the formation and runs it down. Next play, (strongside linebacker) Philip Wheeler got a hand on (a pass from Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel) and (middle linebacker) Gary Brackett squeezed it from underneath. We were able to get out of that drive without giving up points. They were trying to shorten the game at that point, and we were able to keep a three-point lead. When you play hard in a grinding game like that, all those little plays add up.
Q: The Colts are accustomed to scoring a lot of points in a lot of games. When that's the case, how difficult is it to be as patient as they needed to be Sunday.
A: If you think back, Romeo Crennel was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Four or five years ago, we went into Cleveland and had this same type of game – grind it out. They had Jamal Lewis at running back at the time and they tried to blast us with the run. I think (defensive end) Robert (Mathis) had a fumble recovery late in the game to put it away. That's how they're built to play. They certainly came in and knew their plan. They were coming off a bye week. They were healthy. They earned their record of 3-0 and were healthy. Jim did some things in practice to try to let the defense get their legs back a little bit last week. I think we had a little more bounce, a little more energy on defense. That showed. It was just a good, resilient win.
Q: How much does the crowd help at home?
A: I don't notice any noise difference coming from the RCA Dome to Lucas Oil. It's still a great atmosphere. The stadium rocks. Our fans are really into it. It's one of those things that keep going, and it's a good circle to be in. We play well. Our fans expect it and do add a tremendous energy to the building.
Q: With safeties Bob Sanders and Melvin Bullitt out, are the Colts looking to pick up another player at the position?
A: What we did last week was we brought Aaron Francisco back. Aaron obviously played with us last year. It worked out in the off-season where he had the opportunity to go with Carolina, and it did not work out for him this preseason with Carolina. His familiarity with what we did and what we do made it the most logical move – to bring somebody in who is familiar with what we did. Aaron played Sunday. He started, played the whole way and played effectively for a guy who we just flew into town on Tuesday night. That's the nice thing about having an experienced veteran like Aaron out there who has been part of your team. Everybody here certainly respects his work ethic and his intelligence, what he puts into football. Bob's continuing his rehab and he will be out for the foreseeable future – the next few weeks, certainly. We'll continue to get updates on his rehab, where he's at. We also elevated Mike Newton from the practice squad last week, and Brandon King has been active and he participated on a lot of special teams. I would foresee that kind of staying put at the safety position as we speak.
Q: How do you keep track of players around and out of the league who might be available in situations such as the Colts faced last week?
A: We get a daily update of transactions across the league so you know who's cut and who's not, who's working out and that type of thing. Then all week long we're following the injury information, people tracking that and putting it in the computer, monitoring injury situations. Then, a lot of it goes back to the scouting work you've done. Obviously, the draft is paramount, and that report is with a player throughout his career. With pro personnel, a lot of it is based on your preseason scouting work – how you had that guy playing in the preseason, was he healthy, did he play a lot? After that, you get a working list put together really at the cut to 53. That list whittles down as the season continues, or you're adding other players to it as they become available.
Q: Javarris James was signed last week to the active roster. That means he is on the roster for at least three weeks, correct?
A: When you sign a player off somebody else's practice squad, he's guaranteed three weeks. You have to allocate the roster spot for three weeks, and he's guaranteed three weeks of pay. And three weeks get him an accredited season for both his pension and for minimum salary credit.
Q: Has there been any thought given to moving Kelvin Hayden to nickel corner to provide more physicality at that spot?
A: The defensive backfield, we have had continuity issues week to week. We haven't been able to get an ideal rotation or work things out. (Cornerback) Jacob Lacey was out last week. (Cornerback) Jerraud (Powers) has been playing through a foot (injury) a little bit. He has had to miss a little bit of practice time. Our feeling coming out of camp – and they certainly performed that way last year – was that Jerraud with his quickness – and Jerraud is a very instinctive cover guy who can read and react to the ball real well – with everything that occurs inside and how fast that moves inside as well, and in addition to his ability to break on the ball, he kind of gave us a different body type and a different style of play than (former Colts cornerback) Marlin (Jackson) or a bigger corner, but he was very effective in that role. Certainly, Marlin was as well. That's the best thing he did, probably, was to go in and play nickel. Unfortunately, he had the injury this spring in Philadelphia in OTAs. I think it's different styles, different body types, but both players have been effective in that role.
Q: What do you think about using stunts to relieve double-teams on (defensive ends Dwight) Freeney and (Robert) Mathis?
A: Up front, we are a heavy stunting defense. (Defensive line coach) John Teerlinck is very creative there, so we have done things to try to get people free. There were a couple of plays Sunday where Dwight and Robert actually lined up at tackle. We are trying to do some things to get them free. A lot of times with six- and seven-man mass protections such as Sunday – and go back to Denver, as well – when people line up to do that and they're going to allocate a lot of resources to it, they do make it a hard day on those guys. But when we got to the end of the game Sunday, again both of them show up. Robert does something that continues to amaze all of us every week with his hustle and flying around. He got in on that fumble Sunday as well as (safety) Antoine Bethea before halftime. We are doing the stunts, but people are doing a lot to take Robert and Dwight away and focusing a lot of attention on them.
Q: In some cases, Freeney is getting blocked with three guys . . .
A: When you look at Denver, they had three guys on him a lot. They'll have a double-team, then a triple there. A lot of times he'll be able to spin inside when he sees a chipper, and then the guard comes out to get him. Those guys are the first thing offensive coordinators and offensive line coaches are looking to do as they're getting ready to play us.
Q: Can you explain all of the Colts' injuries this season? Is it the turf or the style of play?
A: We've played two (games) on FieldTurf. Houston is grass. Jacksonville is grass. Denver is grass. Training camp is grass and we're on grass or FieldTurf here (at the team's training complex). Just because of the way the schedule has played out, we've had two FieldTurf and three grass (games). I don't think you can correlate that. We do a pretty extensive study and research on our injuries at the conclusion of each season. The surface upon which the injury occurs, the day of practice – all of those type things are factors involved in that study. We usually don't do those during the season. We kind of gather the data for the whole season. In terms of this season, I wouldn't blame it on surface, necessarily. Looking at it, it's both offense and defense. I don't think you can point to a side of the ball. Bob landed in an awkward position. (Wide receiver) Anthony Gonzalez got rolled back on a pile. Those were the two in Houston. Part of it, I think, is this: Guys get nicked up every week. Unfortunately, that's the nature of the beast and the nature of what we do. Injury news on Sunday and Monday is a very significant part of NFL coverage, so my gut is that it's always kind of like this, but we have more media to fill and there are many more people interested in it as well because the fan interest of the game is at a tremendous level. It's something every team goes through and we'll continue to deal with it just like every other team does the rest of the year. The 'Next Man Up' theory has held us in good stead the last few years and hopefully, we just keep having the next man to go to.
Q: The medical staff seems to do a great job . . .
A: We'll just keep our head down and keep working. We have the bye week after that, which obviously gives us little time to reevaluate and give people some break. The training staff and the doctors do a tremendous job. They care and the players know they care. That goes a long, long way, whether it's the trainers or the doctors under (Art Rettig). There is no ego involved. They are certainly diligent and comprehensive in getting the player the best care. They encourage people to go out and get second opinions. We work with guys to get them to the best specialists for the second opinions. I think it's something – and I hope our players would say this – but I certainly know from our perspective we feel very good and very fortunate that we can provide the medical care for the players which we do.
Q: The Tennessee Titans lead the NFL in sacks and seem to get good rush from the interior. It seems the Colts could use push in the middle of the defensive line, the kind you get from a player such as rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions or former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp . . .
A: Those are two rare guys. In the Super Bowl year, we were able to get (Anthony) Booger (McFarland). He, at that point in his career, was more of a run player than a pass rusher, and we were smaller on the line at that point. He gave us more bulk. When you look at it, all four defensive linemen are tied together, particularly when you run stunts and a lot of the things we do. We have not, outside of the (New York) Giants game (a 38-14 Colts victory), been in a position or a score where it's a 'go-get-them' situation. That has not opened up. I saw the statistics on the Titans. I haven't seen them on film yet. That's a very good front and a very good coach in (defensive line coach) Jim Washburn and (Head Coach) Jeff Fisher. We have a very good line coach in John Teerlinck. Like anything else, the defense has had some hiccups. We expect that to get better as the year goes on, but that's part and parcel to when people stay in to take Robert and Dwight out of the game. You have six or seven people blocking, that also clogs things up inside. You hear offensive line coaches say it, 'Just wad it up. Just get them all in there and wad it up.' That does happen a lot, particularly in games. When you run stunts, that's usually to get a person free or to get a match-up. Sometimes, those guys are giving themselves up for the sake of the outside guys as well. It is something that we hope we get a little improvement on over the course of the year. We need to improve on everything over the course of the year. That's how you become a better team. It's difficult because of the way people are playing us right now.
Q: People have gotten used to the Colts winning big, but the league is really more about games such as Sunday's, isn't it?
A: This is the way the NFL is played. Obviously, every season is a new season. Even though our most prominent players are the same guys who have been here an 'X' amount of years. Every season is a new season. Every team is a new team. Each season, each team takes on a complexion of its own, for us and across the league. We have played some very physical teams that wanted to run the ball and shorten the game.
Q: Did Peyton Manning seem frustrated at all?
A: I couldn't speak to frustration. I didn't notice anything, but I can't say I was watching, either. One thing he did was manage the game, not force things. He made good decisions over the course of the day. Part of playing that game plan is to force people to become impatient, force them into maybe some bad decisions, and that did not occur. The long and short of it is, 'Did the quarterback give you a chance to win?' We went out and won. One nice thing about it is we were able to finish the game out with a final drive. The touchdown to pull away was a 12-play, 71-yard drive that took up five and a half minutes in the middle of the fourth quarter. It was a grinding game. He knew it was going to be that way. It's a trying game. You're worn out after, but that's what the NFL is. Sunday is taxing on us. It's certainly taxing on the players, and it's very taxing on the fans and everybody who is emotionally involved. But it was a good, resilient win.
Q: Was there a feeling that the Chiefs' defense wore down at all?
A: It's just grind it out, put your nose to the grindstone and keep working – have confidence that something good's going to happen. As (former Colts Offensive Coordinator) Tom Moore always says, 'Play hard and play long and good things happen.' We kept grinding way. We had some difficulties here and there in the game, certainly on both sides of the ball but when it came time to it, we had the drive on offense. We hung in there, stuck with our game plan and adjusted well during the game. We had the drive on offense to put it away, and we were obviously able to finish it out on defense.
Q: In the same fashion as players are evaluated, is the training staff evaluated in light of the run of injuries?
A: In regard to both our training staff and our strength and conditioning staff, we're very confident and happy that we have such professionals and such good people in those spots. In reading some statistical type information, there are different stats where people are trying to grade training staffs. Some of that is kind of a function of our roster and our roster decisions. For example, we've decided as long as it's prudent we'll keep Bob up. As long as he's up, that's a game missed. That's our decision. That's not necessarily a training decision or the strength and conditioning people's decision. One really good thing our training and strength and conditioning staff do is they understand our style of play. When you look at strength and condition (of players), you ask, 'Does a team run out of gas in the fourth quarter?' The answer is no. We play very well in the fourth quarter. Between the equipment room and the training room, those lights come on first and go off last. Those guys have some long hours. Sundays and Mondays are very, very demanding on those guys physically. They put in a tremendous amount of hours and really care about what they're doing. I think everybody in that area has a tremendous amount of respect – and deservedly so – from our players and from our staff. We certainly have all the faith in the world in them.
Q: What is the status of rookie defensive end Jerry Hughes? Is he on track?
A: Jerry was active for the prior two games and we decided to dress (rookie defensive lineman) Ricardo Mathews Sunday. Jerry has had a good couple of weeks of practice. He is working very hard and is kind of excited about some of the things he has done in practice. He has gotten a couple of snaps in the games, but we understood when we took him that he was on the front end of what was probably going to be a pretty steep learning curve in terms of defending the run game and some of the other things he's going to have to learn to complement his ability and his speed as a rusher in the NFL. He's starting to get a grasp on those. Robert and Dwight are certainly helping him in that regard. Robert has been real good with him. I think we're still excited about what's there. I think we'll see him more and more as the season continues. Like anything else, we don't know when, we don't know why. He's on the 53-man roster, and they're all going to play at some point. We would certainly expect good things out of Jerry when he gets that opportunity.
Q: If Addai can't go, is Hart the starter? And who would relieve him?
A: We signed Javarris James last week. We activated him off the Redskins' practice squad. Javarris had been with us for the entire four games of the preseason. He's familiar with what we're doing. He actually dressed Sunday. We'll know more about Joseph's status and (backup running back) Donald Brown's status as the week progresses. As we get that information, we'll deal with it in a little more of a concrete fashion than trying to guess.
Q: The Colts are going on the road for the fourth time in six weeks. This week's opponent: the Washington Redskins.
A: It's a tough place to play and we'll be playing against an established, veteran quarterback who can run (Donovan McNabb) and challenge you in different ways. Clinton Portis is a little banged up at running back. They are still getting used to the system, but they're winning and playing very hard while doing it. (Defensive tackle) Albert Haynesworth will be back. It will be tough sledding. It's a well-coached team and it's a tough place to play with certainly a very capable quarterback.
Q: Do you see any change in McNabb?
A: He can really buy a second chance to make a play down the field. Over the years, he has become a little more judicious tucking it and running it. As illustrated by the deep pass Sunday, the arm strength is still there. He certainly is in an offense that makes a quarterback very productive. Obviously, (Redskins Head Coach) Mike Shanahan has had great success with the run game wherever he has been. It's going to be a great challenge for us. It will be another grind. It will be another Sunday in the NFL.