Tough decisions are ahead for Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano and his coaching staff as the final roster cuts are coming up this week.
“It’s never easy. … It’s the harsh reality of the [National Football League],” Pagano said Sunday as he reviewed the Colts’ 27-6 preseason win over the Cleveland Browns.
“These guys are giving everything they got, and for some of them it’s a dream come true to get into an NFL camp and have the opportunity to come and compete and try to make a roster spot. Unfortunately, you’ve got to make these cuts.”
Indianapolis will take a 2-1 preseason record into Thursday night’s game at Cincinnati. While the team’s starters may see very limited playing time against the Bengals, Colts’ backups and rookies are expected to get a final look.
Except for a few starters — such as left offensive tackle Anthony Castanzo and right offensive guard Mike McGlynn, who are injured, and a few veterans — no decision will be made on playing time until Wednesday.
“I think there’s some guys that are nicked up that we’ll take a look at and make a decision whether we want to play them or not. But whether we decide to play a series or two, those are things that we’ll get together and discuss as a staff as we begin preparation for this game,” Pagano explained.
“Again, we’ll look at our guys and take a look at the guys like [wide receiver] Reggie [Wayne] and [defensive end] Cory [Redding] and [outside linebacker] Robert [Mathis], some of those guys."
Pagano knows what he’s got in terms of the older players. It’s some of the younger starters and backups that may need more work.
“I know there were some guys last year that had got the time that played a certain amount of reps and didn’t really need to play in the preseason at this point,” he said. “You might hold back. Again, there’s some guys that need some more time out there. We’ll talk about it as a staff and then come up with the best plan possible.”
Final cuts must be done before 4 p.m. Saturday.
“Because of what we did in free agency and through the draft and the way the roster has changed, we’ve got competition across the board in a lot of spots. Those spots in particular, it’s going to be tough because we’re going to have to make some tough decisions, obviously, and we’re going to let some good players go,” the coach said.
“Again, it is what it is. You have to get to 75 is one thing, but getting to 53 is another. It’ll be a challenge and unfortunately there’s some guys that have played really good football for us over the past month and there’s going to be some good football players that unfortunately, we’re going to have to let go. It’ll be tough.”
• Roster moves — On Sunday, the Colts waived cornerbacks Johnny Adams and Allen Chapman, offensive guard Danous Estenor, defensive tackle Kellen Heard, placekicker/punter Brandon McManus, running back Davin Meggett, linebacker C.O. Prime, center Rick Schmeig and safety Ashante Williams.
Wide receiver Maurice Williams was waived with an injury settlement, and cornerback Teddy Williams (quad) was waived-injured. The team also placed outside linebacker Lawrence Sidbury (shoulder) on injured reserve.
• Castanzo update — Castanzo suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee in the first quarter of the Cleveland game.
His MRI was negative. Castanzo is hopeful of being available for the Colts’ regular-season opener against Oakland on Sept. 8.
“[He] got the [magnetic resonance imaging test] and it … pretty much came back as a mild MCL sprain. The MRI was pretty much negative. It wasn’t as bad as anybody anticipated, so he’s going to be day-to-day. He won’t play, obviously, in this next contest but hopefully be ready for the opener,” Pagano said.
Joe Reitz is expected to start at left offensive tackle against the Bengals this week. He replaced Castanzo in the Indianapolis lineup.
“I thought Joe played well. We know Joe’s an athletic guy, a big guy and got size for that position, obviously. He came in and did a nice job,” the Colts coach said.
Wide receiver Nathan Palmer also suffered a sprained MCL against the Browns. He is expected to be sidelined from four to six weeks with the injury.
McGlynn did not start against Cleveland because of a bruised bone in his knee. Jeff Linkenbach got the start but rookie Hugh Thornton saw his first extended playing time. Thornton had been sidelined since the start of training camp with a high ankle sprain.
“I thought he played really well for a guy that hasn’t taken any snaps since we finished the rookie minicamp prior to training camp.,” Pagano said. “He knocked off a little bit of rust but he looked pretty good in there, both in the run and the pass game. Very pleased with his performance.”
McGlynn is expected back for the season opener with the Raiders.
• Caesar rules — Rookie outside linebacker Caesar Rayford has five total sacks so far this preseason and is making a strong push to earn a spot on the Colts’ 53-player regular season roster.
“He’s produced every week. It’s fun to see a guy like Caesar come in from where he came from and do well. And it all goes back … to preparation. I think if you asked every man, particularly on the defensive side of the football and the coaches, the kid’s here non-stop and he’s constantly asking questions, asking the right questions. He practices his tail off. He not only gets reps on the defense, but when we start doing the look teams in preparation for last week’s game and this week’s game, he’s always out there,” Pagano said.