News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Colts

January 1, 2012

Interesting subplots abound in Colts-Jags game

Out of playoffs, teams have other goals in mind

INDIANAPOLIS — This afternoon’s AFC South matchup between the Indianapolis Colts (2-13) and Jacksonville Jaguars (4-11) is the regular-season finale for both teams.

And, as evidenced by their respective won-loss records, neither team is headed for post-season play.

But, at least from the Colts’ point of view, there are plenty of subplots for fans and team observers to keep their minds on.

Foremost of those is what happens with the game’s outcome. A win by Indianapolis and a loss by St. Louis  (2-13) against the San Francisco 49ers would give the Rams the No. 1 pick in April’s National Football League draft.

If both teams win or both teams lose, the Colts will get a chance to make the first pick. Indianapolis would most likely take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the selection. St. Louis, meanwhile, is expected to trade the pick for multiple draft selections and/or veteran players in an effort to improve the roster.

Should the Colts wind up with the No. 2 pick, vice-chairman Bill Polian and vice-president/general manager Chris Polian would most likely stay there (and maybe take Baylor quarterback Robert Green III if he decides to declare for the draft) or trade down with their own effort to acquire additional middle and lower round picks.

What happens in relation to the draft is the biggest story surrounding the Indianapolis-Jacksonville matchup. But it’s not the only one.

A large group of players — core starters and key backups — could be suiting up for the final time with the team. Fans might be seeing wide receiver Reggie Wayne, center Jeff Saturday, defensive end Robert Mathis, offensive guard/tackle Ryan Diem, wide receiver Pierre Garcon, wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez, strong side linebacker Philip Wheeler, offensive guard Mike Pollak, and defensive tackle Eric Foster in their final game with the Colts.

And there’s others, such as tight end Jacob Tamme, cornerback Jacob Lacey, linebacker Ernie Sims, defensive end Jamaal Anderson and defensive tackle/defensive end Tyler Brayton, whose status for 2012 have yet to be determined.

In total, 22 players on the current roster will see the season end and their current contracts with the team expire. Nineteen of them will be restricted free agents.

A lot of what transpires during the offseason will be determined by the status of injured quarterback Peyton Manning, who underwent neck fusion surgery on Sept. 8 and has seen limited on-field work during his rehab.

If Manning is cleared by team medical personnel and his surgeons to return to full-time practice, he will most likely be back with Indianapolis for the 2012 season and beyond. Also, if he is back, the Colts will be forced to dole out a $28 million bonus to the four-time league Most Valuable Player.

Team owner Jim Irsay and both Polians will be kept busy over the next weeks and months determining a new course for the franchise. The question is whether it’s going to be a mid-course correction or a full-blown change of direction.

For his part, Wayne — who has expressed a strong desire to return to the Colts but yet wants a new contract that would pay him the equivalent of what the NFL’s top-line receivers earn — admits that the Jaguars’ game will be bittersweet.

“You can only control what you can and that is to try to go out on a positive note. As a team you want to go out and keep the [two-game winning] streak going. Everybody seems like they are all in-tune with the [offensive] scheme of this week, and we are going against a Jacksonville team that is going to try their best to knock us off.,” he said.

“So it should be a good game, and everybody is excited. We don’t like that this is our last destination, but that is the way it goes. Hopefully we can go out there and play a good game.”

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