Heading into Sunday’s game with the Houston Texans (1 p.m., Reliant Stadium, CBS), it’s safe to say that the Indianapolis Colts have a point to prove.
Almost to a man, the Colts are preparing for their 2011 season opener wanting to show the rest of the National Football League — as well as more than a few members of the media — that they’re more than just a one-man team.
The news Thursday that four-time NFL Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning would be sidelined indefinitely has caused many writers, broadcasters and fans to write off Indianapolis as a playoff contender this year. In fact, the general consensus is that the Colts will be lucky to reach the .500 mark without Manning at the helm of the team’s offense.
The perception of Indianapolis as a rudderless ship without their star quarterback leading the way cuts deep with many players, although some are trying harder than others to keep that chip on their shoulders well hidden.
“I think [some members of the media] have been doing that for the last three or four years as I recall, right?,” Coach Jim Caldwell said Friday when asked about the Colts’ predicted fall from AFC and Super Bowl contender status.
“But we’ve never been a team that has had to resort to being motivated by external circumstances, what people say and think. Our men show a lot of resolve in a lot of very difficult situations. We try to talk to them in that vein. That’s part of my job. But I do think that our guys are focused and ready to go. They’re not really concerned about anything other than the fact that our mission is to win. We don’t make excuses. We expect our guys to be able to step up and perform the way that we anticipate they’re capable of performing.”
Defensive end Robert Mathis, normally a quiet force in the Indianapolis locker room, says that the Colts — especially the team’s much-maligned defensive unit — can’t worry about who or who’s not playing.
“We’re not going to be making excuses about anybody,” Mathis pointed out. “I don’t care who’s in or who’s out. That’s just not what we do. We come to play every Sunday. If you want to count us out, by all means do that.
“This team has a big heart. It helps a lot. It keeps everybody calm. That’s from way back in the Tony Dungy days. We have poise. Just control what you can. Everybody’s going to work. Everybody’s going to get the job done.”
Wide receiver Reggie Wayne just shrugged his shoulders when asked about the negative comments about the team’s playoff aspirations.
“What are you going to do about it? There’s nothing you can do. Either let it go on deaf ears or you let it bother you. I think everybody in this locker room has dealt with it the same way, and that is to not let it bother us at all. We don’t feel like we have to prove anything to anybody, and we’re going to go out there and it’s going to be the same mentality. We want to go out there and win,” Wayne said Friday.
“We just want to win, and we just want to play football. That’s not going to change whether it’s [No.] 18 playing quarterback, [No. 5] playing quarterback or [No. 7] playing quarterback. If they decide to put [No.] 87 at quarterback, then I’ll go out there, and I’m sure they’ll rally around me also.”
• Christensen impressed with veteran players — Offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen says he expects the Colts’ offensive veterans — Wayne, tight end Dallas Clark, among others — to pick up the slack with Manning gone for the foreseeable future.
“Last year we had [wide receiver Austin] Collie and Dallas and [running back Joseph] Addai all down. Guys just come into our locker room and go. I just think that’s why we’ve been so consistent. This has felt the same,” Christensen said.
“[A week ago we were] trying to prepare a 13-year veteran in this offense with a guy that’s been here two days. [The veterans] just keep playing. I think that’s an amazing phenomenon around here. I’ll be shocked if you see anything different [at Houston]. They’ll all come out. They’ll play. No one talks much. Everyone just comes out and does their job. We put a premium on leadership, which has always kind of been to our advantage. We have great leaders. We have great character guys in every room. At the end of the day, it’s their team. They own this team. They’ve always owned this team. They’ll get things right.”
• 9/11 shoes — Wayne and safety Antoine Bethea are among a handful of NFL players expected to wear special shoes on Sunday.
The Reebok brand shoes are decorated with stars and stripes in order to honor those who died during the 9/11 attacks 10 years ago.
“Absolutely. Shoes, gloves, or whatever else Reebok makes. I’m going to wear it, and wear it proudly. It will definitely be the best fine I ever have to pay,” Wayne said. “Think about it man. That’s an important time in our life. A lot of people lost plenty of loved ones. It’s history.
“Your grandchildren and children after that, they will be hearing about that. It’s definitely a time where it needs to be recognized, and that’s a way for guys to put their two cents in.”
While league officials generally frown on players not wearing what is considered to be regulation equipment, they are not expected to issue fines to those wearing the commemorative shoes.
According to Pro Football Talk.com, however, the league office informed all 32 teams Friday that players are allowed to wear special shoes and gloves to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, as long as those special shoes and gloves are made by companies that have sponsorship deals with the NFL.
• Injury list — The only player listed as out for the Texans game is Manning. Safety Antoine Bethea (hamstring); wide receivers Austin Collie (foot), Anthony Gonzalez (hamstring), and Blair White (back); and rookie defensive tackle Drake Nevis (foot) are questionable.
Bethea, Collie, and Gonzalez fully participated in Friday’s practice. White was limited. Nevis did not practice.
Heading into Sunday’s game with the Houston Texans (1 p.m., Reliant Stadium, CBS), it’s safe to say that the Indianapolis Colts have a point to prove.
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