THE POLIAN CORNER

Week 14, Broncos at Colts

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Question: Can you discuss again how the Colts will approach it if and when they clinch the No. 1 seed and homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs?

A: We would deal with it if and when the time presents itself. I will tell you this: you have a 53-man roster. You can only dress 45 plus a third quarterback for any ball game. That limits the number of people who can actually sit out. If you presume that most of the guys who are sitting out are injured, which is always the case at this time of year and is the case with us specifically, then there isn't a lot of flexibility left. This idea that somehow you're going to play this game, if and when the opportunity presents itself, as though it was the last preseason game is far from reality. You don't have that kind of flexibility. What we do in that situation is as follows. The first thing we do is rule out anybody who would be medically benefited by sitting. So, if a player is injured or even if he's slightly injured and would benefit from the rest, he'll get the rest. Then, we'll take a look at what we've got on the roster, and we'll figure it from there. That's the procedure, but we won't even begin to think that – and by the way that's what we've always done – but we won't even think about that until such time as that's appropriate.

Q: It appeared Titans defensive tackle Tony Brown threw a punch on Sunday. Did he, and did he then push an official? If so, aren't those two acts cause for ejection?
A: Touching an official is cause for ejection and truthfully, I did not see that occur. I got a chance to see it on television on the replay. It looked to me as though he threw a punch. That's discipline that the league will deal with. We don't even worry about it. In the normal course of events, the observers – the league officials – since they assessed the 15-yard penalty the officiating office and the disciplinary office will look at it and they'll deal with it, so we don't have to do anything about it. They'll make whatever decision they think is appropriate. But I did not see him touch an official. Normally, if you lay hands on an official, you're gone in a heartbeat.

Q: And the Colts players did a nice job of staying out of that . . .
A: Why compound it? We did the right thing. [Hall of Fame Head Coach] Marv Levy used to have a great statement, 'Don't be dumb, and don't be dirty.' To get involved would have been both, so stay away from it.

Q: Can you comment on University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, and what do you see as his NFL future?
A: First of all without reference to anyone, let me remind everybody that what you hear on television and what you see on television is often not what we see and hear and look at it on tape as scouts. (Those are) two different worlds. Television, especially the sports channels, is in the business of creating stories and creating ratings. Many times they will construct players out of whole cloth who really have no reason to be stars. I can think of a couple that come to mind. That can happen. I'm not saying that's the case with Tim Tebow, but it can happen, so don't be swayed by that. I remind you – perhaps the greatest of all examples – that when [Colts quarterback] Peyton Manning was coming out in the draft, he did not win the Heisman Trophy. I don't know who won that year, but it wasn't Peyton Manning, and he was considered by the so-called experts, 'A product of the system,' a guy with a 'weak arm,' and a guy who's ceiling, who's growth potential as a pro, was severely limited. Ryan Leaf was considered by far the better prospect, by far the better athlete, by far the better leader. You know the rest of the story, so with that sort of caveat, I'll say this: 'I think Tim Tebow is a really good football player.' If you were going to run the Wildcat offense enough to say that you needed a specialized Wildcat quarterback to do it, who could both run the ball and withstand the pounding that you have to take in the National Football League and throw it effectively from the Wildcat, I think Tim Tebow would be a heck of a guy. If you're going to take your offense and say, 'We're going to do what the Miami Dolphins do; we're going to run this 45, maybe 50 percent, maybe 60 percent of the time,' then he's the perfect guy for you. I don't know where you'd take him in the draft, but he fits perfectly there. I've heard other people say he could be a great goal-line and short-yardage running back. I believe that to be the case. I've heard people say they think he can be a very good tight end. I believe that would be the case. I don't know how he catches the ball, but I presume and think he's a good enough athlete that that would not be a problem. There's room for Tim Tebow, if you wanted to install the Wildcat as a part of a specific and integral part of your offense. He'd be perfect for you.

Q: In 2005, the Colts sat a lot of players out for the last games of the regular season, then lost to Pittsburgh. In the year the Colts went to Super Bowl, the Colts didn't sit players at the end of the season and won the championship. Any fear of losing momentum in the postseason this season?
A: No, I am not afraid of that happening. A lot of times perception gets confused with the facts. If I'm not mistaken, in 2005, we actually beat the Arizona Cardinals on the last day of the season in a meaningless game. That was [then Head Coach] Tony's first game back coaching after the tragedy in his family. To my knowledge, other than Peyton, I don't believe we sat anyone who wasn't injured. Perhaps [wide receivers] Marvin [Harrison] and Reggie [Wayne]. Everyone else who sat, other than perhaps those three, were injured. We did not in any way hurt ourselves in preparation. As you may remember, the Pittsburgh game, which was the first round of the playoffs – it was the second round, actually; we had a bye, which is mandated and that you play for and pray for in order to get people healthy. The Pittsburgh game we started slowly, came back as we always do and missed a field goal to send it into overtime. It wasn't as though we were not competitive in the Pittsburgh game. In fact, we were exceedingly competitive. And, but for a great play by [Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, tackling [Colts cornerback] Nick Harper, we would have won the game on a 100-yard return of a fumble. Roethlisberger made a great play. They went on to win the Super Bowl. The fact is we did not have a letdown. We did not have a lack of hustle or lack of preparation or lack of focus. We got a tough break is what it amounted to, then missed a field goal that would have tied it. That's the way it goes. Last year, we played all the way to the end and took a pretty beaten team into San Diego and lost in overtime. No one said we lost any momentum there. I don't subscribe to that. I've said numerous times: we and the media live in parallel universes. They have their stories, which are important to them and that's fine. We have our view of the facts, and we have to deal with the facts. Oftentimes, the twain doesn't meet. That's fair enough. That's fine, but we have to look at it from a factual standpoint.

Q: Safey Bob Sanders is an exciting player, but considering his injury history, how long can the Colts keep him around?
A: We keep him around hopefully through the end of his contract. I spoke with our rehabilitation people Monday and they had nothing but glowing reports on Bob. Everything seems to be going smoothly, both with the biceps and with the knee. We fully expect that we're going to have a hale and hearty and healthy Bob Sanders back for next year. We'll welcome him back with open arms.

Q: And Melvin Bullitt and Antoine Bethea are playing very well in his absence . . .
A: They've done a great job, both of them. Melvin had a phenomenal game Sunday. He really did a great job.

Q: What was the status of DE-Robert Mathis after Sunday?
A: Robert had a quad strain and we don't quite know the extent of it yet. He had some tests Monday. It's not a knee, so there's no need to worry about that.

Q: What is the status of WR-Anthony Gonzalez, out since Week 1 with a knee injury?
A: Anthony is a bit behind schedule. We thought perhaps that he might be back starting to practice this week, but as you know, he had a setback. He had to have some arthroscopic surgery to just tweak the knee a little bit. My hope is that we get a breakthrough here one of these weeks and that he'll be back before the season is over. Part of the problem here – and it's true with any injured player – is the doctors give you a prognosis, but it's only that. It's a prognosis. It's an estimate. Players heal – and human beings heal – at different rates. Anthony's just been a little slow coming around. But we know what the issue is, and we know it will come around probably sooner rather than later, and we're hopeful it will be sooner.

Q: Could he play in the playoffs if he had not played in the regular season?
A: You could do that, because you have, hopefully, two weeks to get ready. So, you could get him ready in that period of time. It would be ideal to have him play before that, but you could get him ready to play in a couple of weeks, I think.

Q: Can you comment on the status of RB-Mike Hart?
A: Mike is fine. As you saw Sunday, he did a great job. He has that special magic where he can make people miss. He has great hands, and he's a very reliable blocker. He finishes every run. We're happy he got out there and got a chance to show what he can do. I know there are a lot of Mike Hart fans here Indianapolis. I'm one of them. I was thrilled to see how he'd done. He has worked his way back from a tough [knee] injury sustained last season.

Q: Can you update the status of WR-Hank Baskett?
A: Hank is fine. He practices well every week. We just have not gone to a lot of four wide receiver sets, fortunately, all of the wide receivers have stayed healthy, so there haven't been that many reps for Hank. He's healthy and fine and practicing well and rarin' to go.

Q: Is there any chance the rosters will be expanded next season if there is no salary cap under the Collective Bargaining Agreement?
A: There will be no chance the rosters would expand next year, because we are in the process of trying to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. If we don't get one before March 1 of this (league) year, we will go into the so-called "uncapped year." That essentially freezes everything and imposes some other rules that are rather onerous for both sides. For one thing, players who would normally be free after four years as free agents will not be free until after six years, so two classes of free agents will be frozen and become restricted free agents, subject to compensation. In addition, the final eight teams in the playoffs will only be able to sign free agents to the extent that they lost free agents. That handicaps the clubs and further handicaps the free-agent market. There are some onerous parts of the uncapped year in addition to the cap coming off. It was designed, quite frankly, to drive both sides to the bargaining table. It's designed to give both sides a headache and hopefully, they're able to reach agreement. If there is no agreement by March 1 – and our hope is obviously that there will be one – you would then be in a position where there would be no chance the rosters would increase. Might they under a new Collective Bargaining Agreement? Certainly, if it went to 18 games – which is part of the discussion going on; no decision has been made on that, but it has been part of the discussion – if that took place, I'm certain we would have some sort of expansion, whether it would be the inactive list, the active list or injured reserve, I can't tell you right now specifically what that would be, but I suspect there will be some expansion of the roster if you went to 18 games.

Q: What are the plans concerning Matt Stover when kicker Adam Vinatieri returns to full health?
A: I don't know that we're going to do anything with Matt Stover. We're a little bit away from Adam being back. I don't think we feel very firm about a return date at this point in time. There's nothing but to pat Matt on the back and say, 'Keep doing it,' which has been great. He has done a great job for us, and I anticipate that he's going to continue to do a great job for us. It's amazing to have two [all-time great kickers] on a team, but we were very fortunate that he [Stover] was able to come our way. He certainly has filled a big void for us.

Q: Talk about this week's opponent, the Denver Broncos. Their quarterback, Kyle Orton, is playing very well after being traded in the offseason from Chicago . . .
A: He's playing well. It was a great trade for Denver. Kyle Orton is a winner. He's a really good NFL quarterback. He proved that with the Bears. He's proving that with the Broncos. He's gotten a quarterback-friendly offense, I think, with what [Broncos Head Coach] Josh McDaniel has installed. They spread the field out and the running game to them is sort of a function of the passing game as opposed to a little bit different style than he had in Chicago. He has been great. His receivers have been great. Knowshon Moreno has been running the ball very well, as has [running back] Correll Buckhalter. They're a really strong team with a dynamic offense and a defensive coordinated by Mike Nolan that gives you fits. It's Baltimore plus [laughing] with [defensive end] Elvis Dumervil leading the league in sacks. This is a tall order. We go from the frying pan into the fire. Offensively, shades of New England. Defensively, shades of Baltimore. How'd you like to line up with that every week?

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