News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 22, 2012

Colts won’t rush Collie’s return

Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — There’s no rush to get Austin Collie back on the practice field, much less return for a game, in the wake of the wide receiver’s latest concussion episode.

That’s the word from Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who has a short preparation turnaround before the team’s preseason game at Washington on Saturday (4 p.m., NFL Network).

Collie, who was hurt in the first quarter of Sunday night’s 26-24 loss at Pittsburgh, did not take part in Tuesday’s workout at the Farm Bureau Football Center and is not expected back until he is cleared to play by team medical officials.

That means the former Brigham Young standout most likely will miss Indianapolis’ final preseason game with Cincinnati on Thursday, Aug. 30, as well. He missed most of the 2010 season after experiencing four concussion-related injuries.

“Just like I said [during a Monday teleconference], [Collie] obviously he had another one. He came in [Monday] and was feeling great. Doctors looked at him. He’s day-to-day. We’re going to always, like I’ve always said, err on the side of caution with these guys,” Pagano explained Tuesday.

“Again, he’s day-to-day. We’re not going to throw anyone out there just to throw them out there because they can help us win football games. Player safety first and foremost.”

Because of Collie’s recent history with concussions, there is considerable sentiment building that the Colts should either waive the receiver or convince him to retire.

The Indianapolis coach, though, is maintaining a wait-and-see stance and see how Collie’s medical tests come out.

“I think I’d just leave it up to the doctors. I mean, we can all sit down if it ever got to that point, and they felt it was necessary to have a discussion like that,” Pagano said. “I mean, I’m certainly not qualified to make those decisions. That’s up to the doctors and Austin.”

n Stepping up — With Collie sidelined for an undetermined amount of time, that leaves a considerable experience gap in Indianapolis’ receiving corps. Reggie Wayne is the only other proven receiver available right now, although the Colts expect to get former St. Louis and Tennessee receiver Donnie Avery back in time for the Redskins game.

Avery has been out the last two weeks after suffering a hip contusion during the first full week of training camp. He returned for light workouts late last week.

“I think Donnie is going to be back [for Saturday’s game with Washington], yeah, which is a good thing,” Pagano said.

Collie’s concussion issues also mean that even more will be expected from the team’s young receivers, such as rookies T.Y. Hilton, LaVon Brazill, Griff Whalen and Jabin Sambrano and one-year vet Kris Adams.

“They’re going to have an opportunity, not only this weekend but in the last preseason game, to try and earn a spot on this team,” the Colts’ coach emphasized.

n Good start for rookies — Hilton, Brazill and Whalen continue to impress through the team’s first two preseason games.

Yes, there have been some rookie mistakes (such as Hilton’s catch, then bobble of an Andrew Luck pass in Sunday’s loss to the Steelers. The play resulted in an interception for Luck). But, overall, Pagano and the Colts’ coaching staff like the athletic skills and big-play potential of the rookie group.

“It’s like T.Y., I sit there and I see that ball comes out of his hands, pops up in the air and we got an interception, which should have been not only a huge gain but could have been a touchdown because they kind of had a busted coverage in the back end. But you see him, he’s pounding the dirt, you get him over there and say, ‘Look, you made a mistake. Just forget about it. Put it in the back of your mind and come back and make a play.’ Then [offensive coordinator] Bruce [Arians] grabs him and talks to him and if you remember the very next series, who did the ball go to? It went to T.Y.,” the Colts’ coach said.

“So Bruce has got a great feel for that kind of thing. Brought him out in motion, put the ball in his hands on a little bubble screen, just to get the kid’s confidence back and let him know that we have faith in all you guys. Not only in T.Y., but in all our players. Put the ball right back in his hands. It’s just again credit to Bruce and the rest of the guys.”

Pagano was equally effusive when talking about Brazill and Whalen.

“I think both guys went in and did a great job. Obviously, Brazill was in there [against Pittsburgh] earlier than Griff. We’re seeing the same things out of Griff that we saw collegiately [at Stanford] and in the preseason. He knows how to get open. He’s got great hands. He’s very smart and he understands the offense, so he’s not out there thinking, and he’s able to play fast,” the coach mentioned.

“You saw him make three great plays, two plays down the middle of the field; get out of the press coverage, get himself clean and make a great play, take a big lick, stay up. And then the touchdown pass that he caught was a great throw by [backup quarterback] Drew [Stanton] and then getting open in the end zone was excellent. So I’m pleased with both those guys.”

n Getting attention — Despite the loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday, many NFL observers have been impressed with how the Colts have played during the preseason, particularly on offense.

Indianapolis has scored 38 and 24 points in successive games, despite having a rookie quarterback (Luck) along with a rebuilt offensive line and a young group of receivers.

And the defense has played relatively well too, considering the shift in philosophy and design.

“I credit the staff and the players. We said from the get-go we want to be a smart, tough, physical football team that’s disciplined and plays within the framework of the rules. I think discipline is key there. [The coaching staff does] a great job of teaching these guys the proper technique on both sides of the ball. They understand the rules and we’re going to play within the framework of the rules,” Pagano said.

“It’s just a credit again to the offensive guys and our players for going out there and executing. I know everybody is probably surprised to see that, with all the turnover and the change and all the youth out there. We stress attention to detail in everything that we do from the meeting room to the walk-through to practice. [The players are] buying in and it’s showing up on game day.”