News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 27, 2011

Colts’ last game not without questions

Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — Are the Indianapolis Colts treating Sunday’s game at Jacksonville as the final game of the season or just the next game on the schedule? 

Despite a 2-13 record, the Colts have plenty on the line – particularly when it comes to draft positioning as well as the future of several key players on the Indianapolis roster. And then there are the questions about what’s going to happen to coach Jim Caldwell and his coaching staff, if anything, once the season is over.

“It is the last game of the year, but also can be used as stepping stones to launch you into the offseason and those kinds of things,” Caldwell explained Monday.

“There are a lot of different things you can sort of talk about in terms of this ball game, but for us it is the next one. What we are trying to do, and [what] we have been trying to do, is get incrementally better, just a little bit better each and every week. I think our guys have been doing that, and this one will also be a challenge to get just a little bit better this week. I think that is indeed the key. And we are going to face an opponent that is doing the exact same thing.”

As for the questions about possible draft positioning, with Minnesota scoring an upset over Washington last Saturday, the Vikings have played themselves out of contention for the No. 1 pick in April’s National Football League draft.

It’s now down to the Colts and St. Louis Rams, who are also 2-13 this season. Due to the league’s tie-breaking procedure, which is strength of schedule, Indianapolis is still the leading contender for the top pick. NFL officials said over the weekend, though, that a Colts win and a St. Louis loss would give the selection to the Rams.

But, again, that could change depending on how teams on both Indianapolis and the Rams’ schedules fare in their games Sunday. According to team vice-chairman Bill Polian, who broached the topic during his weekly Monday night radio show, a final determination won’t be known until after this weekend’s games have been completed.

Caldwell said that the Colts aren’t concerning themselves right now about what might happen in the draft. Their immediate goal is the Jaguars.

Indianapolis has never been swept by an AFC South team since the division was created in 2002 and it doesn’t want to start any precedent now. The Colts are even in the season series with Tennessee and Houston after winning their last two games.

“I do not [worry about the draft]. My job is to win ball games, plain and simple,” the Indianapolis coach said. “[Being swept by a division opponent] hasn’t happened around here in a long time, and I think it is something that they’ve been really focused on and working hard to make certain that it doesn’t happen. That is the real challenge.”

•  Injury list — No decision has been made as to whether tight end Dallas Clark (neck burner), weakside linebacker Philip Wheeler (foot), offensive guard Joe Reitz (ankle) or linebacker A.J. Edds (ankle) will be available to play against the Jaguars Sunday.

“I do know [Clark and Wheeler] are making good progress, but I’m not certain of their status at this point. If [Clark] is not healthy and ready to go, then we won’t (play him),” Caldwell said.

While there is a possibility that Clark could be placed on the team’s injured reserve list if he is unable to play at Jacksonville, no decision has been made.

“We have to do what we think is best for us to win this game, so we’ll look at all phases in that regard,” the Colts coach voiced.

The team is treating the season finale at Jacksonville like any other game in terms of injured players being available.

“There are certain individuals that may have borderline issues,” he said. “But the doctors typically, if [they are] borderline, they are going to rule against [them playing].”