INDIANAPOLIS — Savor the moment and take advantage of the opportunity.
That’s just a little bit of the advice Tony Dungy is expected to give his National Football League team this week as the 14-4 Indianapolis Colts head into Sunday’s AFC championship game with the New England Patriots. New England qualified for the rematch with the Colts with a 24-21 come-from-behind win against top-seeded San Diego on Sunday.
While Dungy has given Indianapolis players some much needed time off after Saturday’s 15-6 AFC divisional win against Baltimore (no meetings or practice are scheduled until Wednesday), he already knows the approach he wants to take when the Colts begin their preparations for the 14-4 Patriots.
“I probably feel more excited [about looking ahead to the title game] than the players because I do know. I’ve coached 26 years and really only had three or four times to be in this position. It’s not guaranteed,” he said Sunday.
“You are not going to get there every year. You feel like you really need to take advantage of it and I do realize how hard it is to get here. A lot of things have to fall right for you.”
“I think our coaches are very fired up. I am personally and looking forward to this week of practice.”
Many of the Colts have been in this position before, playing New England in the 2003 AFC championship game. This time, however, the two teams will face off in the RCA Dome, where the Patriots haven’t played since a November 30, 2003, meeting that New England won 38-34.
Still, there are enough younger players on the Indianapolis roster this season that Dungy is quite aware that playing at a high level and keeping mistakes to a minimum will be crucial.
“It is tough, but that’s who is going to get the job done. If you can do the things you normally do, can function well, handle kickoffs, protect your punter, and all the mundane things when the stakes are really high, that’s what it takes,” he said.
“Elevating your game to a different level because it’s a bigger game. Being able to do the things you did in Week 1. That’s what we stressed all year and hopefully we’ll be able to do that. That is the crux of the matter.”
n Tickets go fast — It took all of five minutes Monday morning for the remaining 1,000 available tickets for Sunday’s Colts-Patriots game to be sold out.
Between the long line of fans who lined up outside the RCA Dome ticket office (including a large contingent who camped out Sunday night), those who went to the 80 TicketMaster outlets around the state and northern Kentucky, and the team’s season-ticket base, it didn’t take very long for the tickets to be purchased.
The TicketMaster outlets began offering tickets the same time, 10 a.m., as the RCA Dome ticket office did. Colts officials used a wristband lottery system in an attempt to keep the ticket sale in somewhat of an orderly fashion, but even then plenty of fans went home disappointed.
n Injury updates — Rookie running back Joseph Addai and wide receiver Marvin Harrison are both expected to play this week against the Patriots.
Addai suffered a shoulder injury and Harrison was banged up a bit in Saturday’s AFC divisional playoff win over Baltimore. Neither injury is considered serious enough to keep them out of action for the New England game.
n Payton goes home — It certainly should be an enjoyable homecoming for New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton this week. New Orleans will be traveling to Solider Field to face the Chicago Bears on Sunday in the NFC title game.
Payton, the former Eastern Illinois quarterback and Indiana State assistant football coach, grew up in Naperville, Ill., and played for the Bears briefly during the 1987 season. He was named as the Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year last week for guiding the Saints to the NFC South crown. New Orleans advanced to the championship game with a 27-24 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday night.
In that win over the Eagles, former Terre Haute North and University of Illinois punter Steve Weatherford had a key 15-yard run off a fake punt to help keep a Saints offensive drive alive at the end of the first half. Weatherford, a rookie, punted three times in the game for a 40.3-yard average.
n Cam in the running for Dolphins job — Terre Haute’s Cam Cameron is apparently among the five finalists for the head coaching job with the Miami Dolphins. He is currently the offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers.
Published reports have listed Cameron — along with Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey, New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin and former Falcons coach Jim Mora — as the primary candidates for the position.
ProFootballTalk.com also suggests that Cameron, a former two-sport standout at South Vigo High School and former Indiana University coach, might be considered for the top job in San Diego if veteran coach Marty Schottenheimer is fired.
INDIANAPOLIS — Savor the moment and take advantage of the opportunity.
- CNHI News Service Originals
Donnelly forges bonds, reaches across aisle
When Indiana’s freshman senator joined a small group of Senate centrists two weeks ago to quietly begin forging a plan to end the shutdown of the federal government and keep the U.S. from defaulting on its debt, he was convinced it was what his Hoosier constituents wanted him to do.
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