Bill Polian doesn’t get a vote to select the National Football League’s annual “Coach of the Year” award.
But if he did, the Indianapolis Colts’ team president admits that he wouldn't have to look very far.
“I think, if I’m correct, we went into the [San Diego] Chargers game with 11 starters out. Now that’s unheard of in the NFL and to be in contention [for a playoff berth]. But we are because they never give up, they fight like the devil, they believe in what [coach] Jim Caldwell has told them,” Polian said Tuesday during the taping of his weekly television show.
“Regardless of the outcome [of this season], we went to the Super Bowl last year and won 16 games. Regardless of what our final record is this year, Jim Caldwell has done the best coaching job of anybody in the National Football League this year to keep this team afloat given everything that's gone on. But they’re believers and they have big hearts.”
That belief of “just keep on winning” needs to carry on Sunday as the Colts face the Oakland Raiders.
Oakland has its own postseason future in sight. Game time is set for 4:05 p.m. (CBS Sports) at the Oakland Coliseum.
While Indianapolis controls its own destiny for the AFC South crown (win the final two games of the regular season and the Colts win the divisional crown) with an 8-6 record, the Raiders (7-7) remain in contention for the AFC West title behind division-leader Kansas City.
“They are playing with a lot of momentum, ” quarterback Peyton Manning said Wednesday. “The Jacksonville game [a 38-31 loss on the road] easily could have gone their way. They had a really convincing win [39-23] this past Sunday over Denver.
“They are playing at home. They are right in the thick of the playoff chase, as are we, so I know it’s going to be a tough ball game.”
Indianapolis hasn’t played the Raiders since 2007, but Manning knows that Oakland and its fan base will be fired up for this week’s game.
“It’s a tough place to play, loud. They have great fan support out there. The fans are long-time Raiders fans and love their team. I think last time we played them, I think they were mathematically out of it [for the playoffs] at that point,” he said.
“So, I expect an even tougher environment because of what is on the line for them and where they are in their division. It’s loud. We were behind in that game and had to come from behind late [to win 21-14, so I think it will be a very challenging place.”
The playoff implications alone make Sunday’s Colts-Raiders faceoff an intriguing game.
‘You have to have a real sense of urgency in the way you prepare. I think this game is going to be a great physical challenge. Every time you play in the NFL against a defense it’s a mental challenge, but this is a physical group all the way across the board on defense,” he said.
“I’m sure they are on offense, as well. That will really be a challenge. You have to be able to reload and regroup [after last week’s win over AFC South rival Jacksonville] and get ready to play again.”
n Collie to injured reserve – The Colts made it official Wednesday when it was announced that wide receiver Austin Collie had been placed on season-ending injured reserve.
“On a sad note, we have had to put Austin Collie on IR,” coach Jim Caldwell said Wednesday. “He certainly is a guy that will be missed. But from a medical standpoint we are concerned more so about his health than anything else, and this is the right thing for him at this particular time.”
Collie suffered diagnosed concussions against Philadelphia and Jacksonville while also leaving the New England game with concussion-type symptoms.
“I’m disappointed for him. I know how hard he’s worked all offseason. I know how excited he was to be back the other day and how well he was playing. I wish him a [quick] recovery,” Manning said.
“It’s one of the worst parts about football when you see guys get injured and get put on injured reserved, especially a guy that loves football as much as he does and how much he wants to be out there.”
Indianapolis has now placed an NFL-high 17 players on injured reserve this season.
n Moving on without Collie – While Indianapolis continues to hold out hope for the return of running back Joseph Addai (neck) soon, the loss of another offensive starter for the season is just what the Colts didn’t need at this point in the season.
“That’s the only choice we have. [Wide receiver] Blair White has done an outstanding job all year, every time he has been called upon. Somebody else needs to step up. You never know who it might be and whose number might be called depending on the situation, down and distance and what not. Blair will fill in to that spot for Austin, and I know he’ll do a good job,” Manning said.
“[Collie’s loss is] certainly going to have an impact. Where that biggest impact is, is hard to say. Especially here in the second-to-last week of the season, it doesn’t do you any good to think about who is not playing, who is not going to be available; you have to go with who’s available. We feel like with who is available, we can go out there and still make some things happen. It’s going to be a real challenge because [Oakland] is a very physical, athletic defense. We have the potential for bad weather up there, so it’s a tough place to be. It will be a tough challenge. But we have to answer the bell.”
n Roster moves -- The Colts have added veteran safety Ken Hamlin to the active roster. Hamlin began his NFL career with Seattle and has also played in Baltimore.
“We do have Ken Hamlin coming in obviously to help us at a spot where we need a little assistance,” Caldwell said. “He is a guy that has been around the league for a little bit and does indeed have some experience. We are happy to have him.
“[Hamlin] has enough background and enough experience. A lot of guys, the thing that you have to overcome is just terminology. Coverages are basically coverages once you have been around the league quite a bit, and he has been in a number of different places. It doesn’t take very long for those guys to get up to speed very quickly.”
How bad has it been for safeties in Indianapolis so far this year?
Since the start of training camp, the Colts have placed six safeties on injured reserve, including starters Bob Sanders and Melvin Bullitt, while two others -- Al Afalava and rookie Mike Newton -- were hurt against Jacksonville last week and may not be able to play against the Raiders.
n Injury report -- Sitting out Wednesday’s practice were offensive tackle Charlie Johnson (groin), defensive tackle Daniel Muir (chest), defensive end Dwight Freeney (rest), outside linebacker Tyjuan Hagler (illness), cornerback Kelvin Hayden (neck) and Afalava (ankle).
Weakside linebacker Clint Session (elbow), running back Mike Hart (ankle) and tight end Brody Eldridge (rib) all saw limited work. Offensive guard Jamey Richard (hip), Addai (neck) and Newton (neck) all fully participated in the practice session.