Colts revise bye week plans after losing Luck to injury
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — All the Indianapolis Colts really wanted was a smooth, quiet bye week.
Now they’re dealing with more turbulence.
Less than 24 hours after players packed their bags and headed home to take the week off, coach Chuck Pagano announced Andrew Luck could miss most of the second half of this season with a lacerated kidney and a partially torn abdominal muscle.
That means 40-year-old backup Matt Hasselbeck would start in Luck’s place.
Suddenly, the much-needed change of pace from this topsy-turvy season was gone along with the momentum from their biggest win of the season.
“We needed time, especially on the offensive side with the change at the coordinator position, just to keep progressing and familiarizing everybody with how we call things and do things,” Pagano said.
“That was where the lion’s share of our work was going to be devoted in the building this week. Now, you make an adjustment at the quarterback position by setting things up for Matt.”
The Colts (4-5) believe in Hasselbeck. They re-signed him during the offseason and haven’t carried a third quarterback on the active roster all season.
But little has gone as planned this season.
Last year’s AFC runner-ups were a trendy preseason pick to reach the Super Bowl.
Instead, the first nine weeks of this season have been dominated by consternation about what’s wrong and continual debates about a perceived rift between Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson and their futures with the team.
Also whether Luck was injured worse than the Colts initially acknowledged and whether Grigson had done enough to protect Luck or build a legitimate title contender.
Along the way, the Colts have taken hit after hit.
Art Jones, the anchor of the defensive line, went down with a season-ending injury in August. Luck missed two games with an injured right shoulder and wound up on last week’s injury report with a bad ankle.
The offense’s steady struggles led to last week’s firing of offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton and the promotion of Rob Chudzinski, Pagano’s longtime friend, as play-caller.
Each week, it seems, there’s another chapter in this soap opera.
It hasn’t been easy — even for a seasoned veteran such as Hasselbeck, who has played in three Pro Bowls, started a Super Bowl and survived coaching changes during his long career.
“Outside the building, it’s been very gossipy,” Hasselbeck said recently. “It’s bizarre to me, it’s surprising to me. The actual temperature in this building is very different.”
Perhaps staying cool and calm is one reason that as bad as Indy has played, the Colts are actually in pretty decent shape.
They lead the AFC South by one game over Houston. They are 3-0 with two road wins against division foes and Hasselbeck remains the most proven quarterback of the four AFC South teams. A third straight division crown would assure Indy of hosting at least one playoff game.
Indy also has a favorable schedule.
Five of the last seven games are against teams with three or fewer wins and the two teams with winning records — Atlanta (6-3) and Pittsburgh (5-4) — are dealing with their own concerns.
The Falcons have lost three of the past four, and it’s unclear when Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will return from his injured left foot in time for the Dec. 6 meeting.
Before the Luck injury, players and coaches thought they had found solutions to Indy’s problems and could work on consistency in time to make a run at the perfect time.
“I’ve been here since 2006 and the hottest team, that’s who wins in the end,” outside linebacker Robert Mathis said. “So you have to make sure you do the little things so you can be the hot team in December and January.”
But that just became a whole lot tougher because everyone inside their locker room knows Luck gives them the best chance to turn things around.
“It’s another body blow,” Pagano said. “But you pick yourself up, you dust yourself off and you go to work.”
And hope they can get back on track with or without Luck.
“We’ve just got to keep playing the way we did Sunday and keep building off of it,” receiver Andre Johnson said. “We’ve not played the way we’re capable of playing and we know that if we play the way we are capable, we can play with anyone.”