News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 2, 2012

Early-season injuries help Colts build depth for the future

Tom James
The Tribune-Star

INDIANAPOLIS — Injuries along the Indianapolis Colts’ offensive and defensive lines early this season may end up helping the team as the year progresses.

At least that’s how interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians views the depth at both areas heading into Sunday’s home game with Miami.

“I think what started out as a concern were both lines of scrimmage, defensively and offensively. But throughout the injuries, we now have some pretty good depth. Bringing some guys in, getting a lot of practice reps, some playing time,” Arians said earlier this week.

“When you bring a guy in off the street and he plays 17 plays, makes a couple tackles and doesn’t even get to dress next week, you’re starting to get some depth and that happens in the defensive line. So that part of it, we’re in good shape.”

The Colts also began the year with one of the youngest, and least experienced, rosters in the NFL. But now all that youth is developing quickly, perhaps quicker than expected, at least on the offensive side of the ball.

“I think skill-wise we’re really young offensively, if there is an injury, it’s going to be another young guy,” he said.

While the Colts have developed better depth along the defensive line, the rest of the unit is hurting. Especially at inside linebacker and at cornerback.

“Defensively, we really can’t afford any more injuries in the back end to stay in the [playoff] hunt. They’ve [Miami has] got some real quality receivers. Hopefully, we’ll get [cornerback] Darius [Butler] back this week. He’s going to go day-to-day and hopefully by Friday he’s ready to go,” Arians said.

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n One game at a time — That’s the philosophy Arians and the rest of the Colts coaching staff is trying to get across to the team’s players this week.

Yes, the Miami game is significant. Beat the Dolphins and Indianapolis strengthens its chances of making the AFC playoffs as a potential wild-card entrant. A loss and those hopes for a playoff run will diminish.

“I mean that’s the whole focus this week. Don’t read about yourself, don’t pat yourself on the back, respect the process of a Wednesday, a Thursday, a Friday and a Saturday on how to prepare. They don’t change from week to week. As long as you respect the process, you don’t get caught in those peaks and valleys of ‘I’m good, I’m bad, I’m good, I’m bad,’” Arians stressed.

“Just keep to ‘it’s Wednesday, this is what you do on Wednesday; it’s Thursday, this is what I do on Thursday’ and don’t change that routine because it’s been pretty good.”

Helping the coaching staff get that point across has fallen on the shoulders of the Colts’ veterans, such as wide receiver Reggie Wayne, center Samton Satale, outside linebacker Robert Mathis, outside linebacker Dwight Freeney, safety Antoine Bethea, defensive end Cory Redding, cornerback Jerraud Powers and safety Tom Zbikowski.

“It’s hard, but that’s veteran leadership. That’s the guys in the room. They see the guys more than we do as coaches and they know who is in tune and who is not and get them back on the road where they’re supposed to be going,” Arians said.

n Injury list — Freeney (ankle) returned to full practice Thursday, as did inside linebackers Pat Angerer (foot) and Jerrell Freeman (foot). Cornerback Darius Butler (shoulder) and rookie quarterback Andrew Luck (knee) also fully practiced.

Angerer and Freeman were wearing walking boots and did not take part in Wednesday’s workout. Both are hoping to play against the Dolphins.

“I’m doing OK. It’s just a little precaution,” Freeman said Thursday. “They gave me the day off for rest, but I’m ready to get back out there.”

Sitting out were rookie tight end Coby Fleener (shoulder), cornerback Vontae Davis (knee), Mathis (knee) and running back Donald Brown (knee). Mathis and Brown are expected to play. Offensive guard Jeff Linkenbach (head) saw limited work.

“I’m playing [Sunday] and I look forward to being back out there with the fellas,” Mathis said. “I’m feeling pretty good. They kind of had a snap count just to see where I was at. Things are feeling good and I’m itching to get back.”

The former Pro Bowl defensive end doesn’t think he’ll be limited in what he does Sunday.

“Not as much. When it’s on, it’s on. When they blow the whistle, whatever plays I’m out there, I’m out there,” he said. “I was resorted to more of a cheerleader more so than a player the last few weeks or so. I’m just itching to get back and just very anxious.”

Mathis has missed the last three games after he sprained his knee against Green Bay.

n Tickets available — The Dolphins have returned nearly 300 tickets for Sunday’s game. Visiting team returns do not apply when lifting the NFL-mandated local television blackout.

Tickets are available while they last at the Lucas Oil Stadium ticket office, Ticketmaster ticket centers, charge-by-phone at (800) 745-3000 or at www.ticketmaster.com.