INDIANAPOLIS – The huge popularity of NFL football and the attention from millions the game is quite fortunate to attract can lead to false notions or unfounded topics that eventually reach Colts players.
One such topic bandied about is a team using its current season to impact the next one.
Indianapolis is in the mid-season situation where it is looking for its first win. It is a position no one imagined, and it is one that 53 players in the locker room are trying to correct through victories. While doing so, they have been asked periodically about their approach and dedication for the remaining games.
Colts players are engaged in a line of work that will end while they are young men, relatively. Each player is one of about 1,700 individuals fortunate to have a chance to play football at its highest level for up to 16 days a year.
Most importantly, though, is the kinship Colts teammates have for each other. That is why the approach is to win as many of the remaining games as possible.
"It is about the guys in the locker room," said safety Antoine Bethea. "We're the ones out there on the field fighting for each other, working with each other. For the 53 guys in this locker room, there is no way we're going to stop fighting. We'll keep fighting.
"It's just like off the field with your family. With one of your family members going through something, they lean on each other to get through that. Here, that's what we're doing – leaning on each other to get through this tough time. Everybody knows it's a tough time. It's an unusual spot for this organization. We're learning a lot about ourselves, about each other. We're sticking in here together."
Kicker Adam Vinatieri has been a part of NFL families for 16 years and with two different franchises. The perspective of a 38-year old man and father of three children remains firm because of the bonds he has seen the game form over many seasons.
"It's the same reason you don't give up on your family at home," said Vinatieri. "We don't all have the same last name, but we all put on the same jersey. It really is that way. We care about each other as much as we care about us. That's what makes this team, and sports in general, so great. It's more than just yourself. You look across the locker room and you want to support them, and you want them to do the same for you. That's probably one of the greatest things about sports, the camaraderie and that brotherhood that you develop with guys."
Available for questioning for four days a week throughout the season and being a part of a community and a non-stop information world beyond the worksite, Colts players hear every conceivable topic on the state of the team, for this season and the next one. What many people miss is just how special players feel for being able to play and how important it is to win for everyone who follows a team.
"I don't understand that (outside talk about not trying to win)," said defensive end Robert Mathis. "Quit? Seriously? Really? This is what you get paid for, this is your job. That's first off. (If) you come in here and quit, you're going to be gone, and the guy who brought you in is going to be gone. It's (the brotherhood) greater than one player. You're blessed to be in the position to have a job (like this). If that's not enough to motivate you to do your job, I don't know what is. We've been fighting and scratching together for too long to just give up on each other. We're in it together. We've won a Super Bowl together. We win together, we lose together. We play together."
Linebacker Pat Angerer is a passionate player given to few words and a usually quiet demeanor. Angerer has been with the Colts for two years – a playoff season where the team battled to make it at the end and one where adversity had hit hard. He feels the bonds of brotherhood because he has played all his life.
"Absolutely, we're too much of a family and work too hard for each other to just 'can' it," said Angerer. "There are just too good a (quality of) players and too good a (quality of) people in here to just stop fighting. We're going to keep fighting and get better. I guarantee you.
"You hate losing more than you love winning. I think that's the truth. It (stinks), especially when you work so hard. Everybody in here works real hard. Everybody in here cares and everybody in here fights. It's tough. We have a good group of guys. We're just not getting it done. We're going to keep working."
Cornerback Jerraud Powers is helping to keep a secondary together that has needed young players to contribute in key roles. Powers joins Bethea in trying to create cohesiveness in the secondary, and he knows guys team-wide are bonding.
"Everybody believes in one another. Everybody's going to do whatever it takes to win and help each other," said Powers. "We have guys like Gary (Brackett) who's on injured reserve. He takes the linebackers and watches film and breaks it down with them. He's still giving his perspective on what can happen and what we can do to get better. The 53 guys we have in this locker room and even the guys on IR, we're still doing all we can to get this team some victories and get this thing turned around. There are no signs of 'quit' or anything of that nature with the players. Guys are going out there and fighting their tails off. We just have to stop making mental mistakes in crucial times of the games. When we do, things will be different.
"There still is a lot of football left. That's the good thing about it. It's not like we're two games away from the season being over. There's still a lot of football left. A lot of guys still can make strong cases of what we can do with this team. I still believe we're going to get this thing turned around. It's not 'if,' it's 'when.' We're still right there knocking on the door. We just have to do it."
Team captain Gary Brackett has observed from the sidelines after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury on an interception return in the first game of the season. Brackett cannot do anything about the season physically, but the tug of situation is very present.
"It's tough. I still feel like I'm part of the team. I don't say, 'They're 0-8 and I'm 0-1.' That's not the case. I think I'm part of the team. I'm 0-8, we're all in this together. We're going to get out of this thing together. It's a brotherhood and everyone has each other's back. You need it, especially now in tough times. It's easy when you're 8-0 to be buddy-buddy and be friendly and on good terms. At 0-8, it really reveals character, and I think we have some high-character guys. For all of us, quitting is not an option. I know it's kind of repetitive (to say) that we're going to keep working hard, we're going to keep trying and make this thing work, but there's really no alternative. No one's going to say, 'We're going to quit, we're going to give up, we're going to lay down, the season's over.' That's just not our makeup, and that's not how we think. So we're going to keep working hard, and guys are going to have to keep stepping up. Somehow, someway we're going to find a way to win.
"There are still a lot of games left. Anything can happen in the NFL. We've all been a part of some long runs as far as winning streaks are concerned. You have to keep that in the back of your mind. Attack it one day at a time, one practice at a time, one play at a time and start stacking things together. Hopefully, come Sunday, get a victory."
Powers will keep fighting along with his teammates. Seeking anything other than victory is not accepted. While topics are debated by observers outside the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, it is clear that effort, character and a passion for success will continue.
"It's tough," said Powers. "At the end of the day, it's football. At the end of the day, it's a game. I take my job very seriously, but I try not to let what's going on here in my job affect how I live outside of football. I try to go home with a positive attitude, come here with a positive attitude and do things accordingly. Any competitive guy does not want to go through a situation like this. You can learn from it and go from there."