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Frank Slade
09-14-2005, 11:46 AM
By Colts.com staff - Colts.com

Week 1: Colts vs. Jaguars



Q: The Colts opened the 2005 regular-season with a 24-7 victory over the Baltimore Ravens. A good victory, and a lot of good things came out of it.

A: Our defense really played magnificently. There were a lot of things to be proud of in Sunday nightís game, not the least of which was the preparation that this team put in. We had such a disjointed preseason with the Japan trip, with the injuries, with going into the third preseason game with 26 guys injured, trying to find people to practice. Then we lose two linebackers at the start of the week, then lose a linebacker on the eve of the game. All those things gone wrong and on top of that, no (tight end/fullback) Dallas Clark. We had so many things going against us that you worry about that. Secondly, we practiced so hard with such short numbers that I was very concerned weíd have anything left for the ballgame. Guys were so focused on doing the best they could and preparing the best they could that you worried maybe theyíd go in the ballgame without enough gas to finish. Just the opposite was true. We flew around from start to finish. We out-hit them over the course of the game, We were the fresher team at the end. Thatís just a tremendous credit to our players, to their preparation, to their professionalism, to their toughness. And a great job by the coaching staff of getting them prepared. We knew Ė and (Colts Head Coach) Tony (Dungy) told them beginning last Wednesday Ė that the defense was going to have to hang in there until the offense got a handle on what they were doing to us. That was because it was an opening ballgame where you obviously donít see what theyíre going to use in the preseason. Until we got adjusted to that, the defense was going to have to hold us in there. They did far more than hold us in. I think itís pretty clear Ė from the black uniforms, to trying to use the crowd as intimidation, to all of that Ė that the Ravens wanted to bully us. We werenít going to be bullied and we proved it. By the fourth quarter, we werenít doing any bullying, but neither were they. Itís a great tribute. There are a lot of things we can do better, but I donít know that we can prepare better or put more into a ballgame than we did that ballgame Sunday night. Youíre awfully proud to wear the horseshoe after that effort Sunday night.

Q: The Colts had four linebackers Ė Gary Brackett, Cato June, David Thornton and Rob Morris Ė in uniform and seven defensive linemen and they were going against Ravens running back Jamal Lewis. As the game wore on, you realized the Colts werenít giving ground, and in fact, the Ravens actually gave ground.

A: They (the Ravens) began to give ground at the end of the second quarter. We took it over at the start of the third quarter and ran it downhill from there. When you look at the things going against us, they were tactically so hurtful: only four linebackers in a game where you knew they were going to run the ball. Itís unheard of to play with four linebackers anyway, but in a game where you knew they were going to run the ball, thatís awfully difficult. It overtaxes everyone else on special teams, so youíre running the risk of injury there, because those two linebackers who were out normally play a major role on special teams. The idea of seven defensive linemen in a hot atmosphere: youíre going against a huge offensive line and you want to rest your line and we rotate people anyway. Not to have Montae Reagor and have (defensive end) Josh Thomas on the limp pretty much all week and not have a lot of practice time made it tough, yet that group played better than anybody. (Newly-acquired defensive tackle) Corey Simon played 29 plays. He was a big factor in a lot of them. So, that was a real plus and a lot to be proud of. Finally, without Dallas Clark. The kind of defense the Ravens play was going to try to do two things: number one, take away our wide receivers; and number two, intimidate our wide receivers. They succeeded for a half in doing the former. They never did the latter: witness (wide receiver) Marvin (Harrison)ís spike after (getting hit by Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis after) the catch across the middle. What the (Ravens) are going to give you in that situation is the tight end. The tight end is the guy whoís going to be open in those types of coverages (played by the Ravens), whether theyíre dropping eight and playing zone or doubling the receivers and playing man-to-man on the tight end. To play with a rookie (Utecht) whoís never been in that situation versus a veteran (Clark) whoís a big-play guy Ė boy, thatís really got you behind the eight ball. To his credit, (first-year tight end) Ben Utecht came in there and played awfully well. We were able to get the ship right after a little bit of a rocky start, which we knew would happen. There were no two ways about it. I raise this question: Iím not sure thatís the kind of football the NFL wants to sell. In one sense, itís fun, because itís so hard hitting. But I donít know if Iím a casual fan if I wouldnít have been a little bit bored with that first half. I donít know. Itís strategy. Itís feeling each other out. We got a big play, they made a mistake and we didnít connect on it. It seems to me thatís not the type of football the average fan gets excited about. Maybe Iím wrong. Obviously in Baltimore they like defense like that. In every way, I think we prevailed in a situation where the deck was really stacked against us and that credit goes to the players and the coaches for preparation and mindset there.

Q: The touchdown pass from Colts quarterback Peyton Manning to Harrison in the third-quarter really seemed to change the dimension of the game.

A: Once we got that score, you felt pretty good, because you knew they were going to have to change their approach and thatís not what they wanted to do offensively.

Q: One thing you donít like to hear is a player getting booed when heís injured. That happened to Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller Sunday.

A: Itís very difficult. He had a tough night. A lot of that had to do with us and not him. Itís difficult. You never want to see a player booed when heís injured and he was seriously injured. He may miss quite a bit of time and it looked that way. (Colts defensive tackle) Larry (Tripplett) landed on him pretty hard and with a lot of momentum, so itís difficult and you feel for him. But thatís professional sports these days. Things have changed.

Q: What was the quick-change play of the game? What changed the momentum the most?

A: In my mind, the quick change was (Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackettís) interception on the first drive, because had the Ravens gotten some points there and had they gotten the crowd energized, it might have been a little different ballgame. Gary made a great play to pick the ball off. (Colts cornerback) Nick Harper defelected it. Gary was hustling back, made a great catch to pick it up, turn it around and run it back. We dodged a bullet very early in a tough, opening, road game and were able to get settled down. So, in my mind, that was the quick change of the game.

Q: The situation with the linebackers playing with only one backup. In situations like that, sometimes you see guys pace themselves. It didnít look like they were pacing themselves out there Sunday.

A: (Laughing) They werenít pacing themselves. They were running around like they were the Energizer Bunnies. Some guru was quoted in Sports Illustrated a couple of weeks ago as saying about our defense that Freeney scared them to death but the rest were all just little guys who ran around. Our little guys ran around, but they also hit people. They knocked balls loose and they intercepted them. We got three interceptions and three sacks. When you get that kind of performance, youíve dominated the other club. Thatís what we did, and the linebackers were at the forefront of that.

Q: Were you surprised with Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick calling timeouts at the end of the game when the Colts were kneeling to run out the clock?

A: I donít know why he chose to do it. We were surprised that he chose to do it, and a little annoyed, really. And the players were telling me that their players were a little perplexed by it, too. They were telling our guys, ĎHey, weíre not in favor of this.í The game was clearly decided. With two minutes to go, they were not going to come back and win that game. Maybe they wanted to get some more snaps for their quarterback knowing that he was going to have to play. They knew the seriousness of the injury to Boller, so that may have been the reason. If thatís the case, itís perfectly justifiable, but we were surprised by it, certainly. The thing you worry about as a player or as a coach or an administrator is that you get someone hurt in a situation like that where itís needless with respect to the outcome of the game. As I said before, he may have wanted to get some snaps for the quarterback and thatís perfectly understandable given their situation.

Q: Do you see preseason as necessary considering the risk of injury involved?

A: You need preseason because you have to get your team ready to play, number one. Number two, you have to find football players. (Colts defensive tackle Darrell) Reid showed up Sunday night and Iím certain the Ravens didnít know much about him. They do now. We found him during the preseason, so thatís one benefit of it. Secondly, you do need to get your team ready to play. You need to get them in game shape and you need to get them in sync working with one another against another opponent, so there is value to that. You always feel very bad about injuries that occur in the preseason because you know that the games donít count, but in terms of needing preseason work, yes, you do need it. For example, if (Colts running back) Edgerrin (James) had not worked in preseason maybe he fumbles the ball in tight quarters Sunday night. That would have probably determined the outcome of the game. He didnít. We didnít have a sack, a fumble or an interception. You get that by working together and practicing together during preseason. The trick is to try to ration the amounts of time that the players play so that you limit the exposure to injury. There is an old statistic that says for every preseason game you play, youíre going to suffer one major injury. We exceeded that by a fair amount this particular preseason. I will say this: five preseason games is too much and five preseason games with only 80 players on your roster is absolute suicide. Itís stupid. It hurts the product that weíre trying to produce for the public in the regular season. Itís short-sighted in the extreme and if I havenít gotten enough people at Park Avenue mad at me, Iíll just say itís beyond stupid. That needs to change. If people are going to play five preseason games and fly around the world and do all of that, which I donít think is very wise, either, you need more than 80 men to do it. That should change dramatically. I would like to see the fifth game eliminated. If international games are important, and I think they are, they ought to be scheduled so that you have a bye after it Ė or a two-week bye if youíre going to the Orient Ė and let people get back into the regular flow of the preseason. We never got into any kind of flow throughout this preseason because we were always coming from behind and trying to fight off the affects of the trip to Japan. But you do need preseason. No two ways about that. I was in the USFL. We only had two preseason games and they were scrimmages, actually. I can tell you itís not enough. I think four is exactly the right number, but five clearly is not.

Q: Some players who missed the preseason this season Ė center Jeff Saturday and wide receiver Brandon Stokley among them Ė played well Sunday. They were joking that perhaps preseason wasnít so necessary.

A: (Laughing) Like everything else in life, the answer lies somewhere in between. Thereís a lot to be said for maybe taking a look at how we structure practice in the preseason. Because guys who come in and have fresh legs seems to play pretty well. You do need preseason, but I think weíre going to sit down and take a look at it. As Tony said, after what weíve been through this preseason, weíre going to examine everything we do with respect to next preseason.

Q: Whatís the biggest challenge presented by Jacksonville this year?

A: One thing thatís different is they have the rookie first-round draft choice, (wide receiver) Matt Jones, who is an incredible athlete. Heís 6-feet-6 and runs 4.7. They ran him on a reverse Sunday for 25 yards. They threw him a big, long-gainer where he out-leaps defenders. Heís a former leading rebounder for the Arkansas basketball team, as well as being a quarterback. So, heís a principal new weapon for them in terms of offense. The scheme that they use fits quite well, because essentially they have become a vertical team (offensively) as opposed to a West Coast team. Theyíre going down the field as opposed to horizontally across the field. Thatís a little bit of a change and it will be markedly different than what we saw with the Ravens. Having said that, our old nemesis is back there behind the center, (Jaguars running back) Fred Taylor. We better do as good a job on Fred Taylor as we did on Baltimoreís guy (Jamal Lewis) Sunday night. Otherwise, theyíll just simply run the football and control the game and we donít want that. Defensively, theyíre quite good. Theyíve improved themselves some there with their front. They view themselves as a legitimate contender and I think they feel weíve been lucky in beating them the last couple of years and that this division really belongs to them. For the second game of the season, itís going to be a tough one. I think itís going to be emotional on their part and weíve got to meet that challenge.

Q: On one play Sunday night, the official seemed to miss a spotting of the ball after a run by Edgerrin James. Did you notice that?

A: It did look a little shaky when you looked at the sideline view. The end-zone view is much more difficult to see. We couldnít get a replay, so there was no way to challenge it. On balance, we couldnít tell looking at the tape today. The bottom line is, ĎMake the fourth down.í Thatís the issue there. The one thing I came away from this game very concerned about and troubled about was our short-yardage and goal-line running. Weíre 0-for-the game. When youíve got the ball on the 2-yard line, youíve got to knock it in. When youíve got 2nd-and-1, youíve got to make it. Keep those chains moving. Thatís an area we certainly can and need to improve. You never play the perfect game and that was far from perfect, so weíve got to get better at that.

Q: Defensively, the Colts seemed to have taken some serious strides in the off-season, strides that showed up in the opener.

A: If youíre going to win in this league, you have to have a viable defense. The Ravens are pretty good. There are a lot of other teams in this league that are good, including the (New England) Patriots, on defense. You have to separate what is hype from fact. Weíve got to be a better defense than we were last year, but we were pretty good last year. The hype says that thatís not true, but in this case, hype is wrong. Will we be better? I think so. You didnít see (rookie cornerback) Marlin Jackson Sunday night. You didnít see Montae Reagor Sunday night. You saw the new-and-improved version of Larry Tripplett and you saw Corey Simon, so weíre going to get better as the season goes on. I would not have thought quite honestly that we were capable of playing as well as we played Sunday night. Kudos have to go to Joseph Jefferson, who has made a world of difference playing strong safety. This is a very much improved defense and it ought to be. Weíve invested a lot in it in both money and draft resources. Itís well-coached and most importantly, itís played by guys who really want to play and really want to work hard. Thatís a tough combination to beat. The obvious is (defensive end) Dwight Freeney and (defensive end) Robert Mathis, but weíre mentioning some other guys who are not so obvious who I think are going to be pretty big contributors. We mentioned Gary Brackett. And (outside linebacker) Cato June continues to play better and better every week. Coach Billick said once we (the Colts) get in front, we play to our defensive strength and thatís absolutely right. Once we get our nickel people on the field, Iím not sure thereís a better nickel linebacker tandem than Cato June and Gary Brackett. Those guys are like torpedoes. All over the place and they intercept the ball as well. There are things on defense that we do awfully well and there are things we need to improve that it looked like we improved Sunday night, so thatís a good sign for the future.

Q: And Brackettís hands . . . theyíre special, arenít they?

A: I mentioned to Tony on the plane coming home that the play that always sticks in my mind with Gary Brackett is the last play in the playoff game (in 2003) against Kansas City, where (Chiefs running back) Priest Holmes gets the ball in the open field, and if he scores a touchdown, we lose the game. Gary came flying in from out of nowhere, leveled him and we won the football game. People who make those kinds of plays in those kinds of situations are guys that you can rely upon. We know and the fans are finding out that you can rely on Gary Brackett. Thatís a good thing. There has been a lot of improvement on the defense, not the least of which of course is the running game. We held them (the Ravens) to 77 yards. They get 77 yards in a quarter, or expect to. That was a great performance. The defense is much improved and thatís going to be a key for us this season. Youíre not going to pitch a shutout every week, but if you can go out there and hold the opposition down, it gives your offense the luxury to fail, which is going to be the case sometimes. Youíre not always going to be perfect on offense.

Q: This question is about hamstring and lower body muscle pulls. Do you think thatís a function of strength and conditioning? Can you put your finger on why there are so many injuries of this sort?

A: They tend to fall into two categories. The first and by far the most common are fatigue injuries. A player will be fatigued because of overwork, because of poor hydration, because of jet lag as was the case with us when we got back from Japan. The muscles will fatigue and with fatigue, theyíre very susceptible to injury. Those are by far the most frequent. The other kind are torque injuries. The player will take a muscle thatís highly-developed and put a lot of instant pressure on it as though you stepped on your gas pedal and try to go from 0 to 60 as fast as you could. The muscle simply cannot stand the strain thatís placed on it and it tears. You tend to get torque-type injuries with the more thickly-muscled athletes. For those of you who are real old-schoolers, Mickey Mantle Ė the great Hall of Famer for the New York Yankees Ė had any number of hamstring injuries, because if you looked at Mickey Mantleís lower legs, theyíre sheer muscle. He was a heavily-muscled guy. The antidote to that, particular with the torque injuries, is stretching. We do a lot of stretching and strength and conditioning work. We do a lot of stretching before practice and we stretch players during practice. If a player has a susceptibility to muscle injuries, we do the best we can to keep them stretched, even during games. We keep them hydrated the best we can, but in some cases youíre going to get a rash of them that are related to fatigue. Thatís what happened to us this year.

Q: How important is it to sign running back Edgerrin James to a long-term deal?

A: I hope I can answer this question in detail for the last time. Iíll give you the answer that I gave Drew Rosenhaus, Edgerrinís agent. In order for us to understand what we need to do to enter into long-term negotiations with Edgerrin, we have to have a collective bargaining agreement in place. That is not yet the case and I donít anticipate itís going to be the case any time soon Ė that is, within the next 6-to-8 weeks. Secondly, we have to know what the salary cap is going to be for next year. If there is no CBA, the salary cap will be one number if there is a CBA, itís likely the salary cap will be another number. Finally, in order to enter into negotiations we have to know what rules will be in effect relative to how the salary cap is counted and will there be any changes? Might there be changes in a new CBA? Yes, very likely. What are they? I canít say right now, but those things have to be in place before we can formulate a plan that makes sense for us and might make sense for Edgerrin. None of those things are in place, so my focus is completely off any attempt to sign Edgerrin to a long-term contract. Itís just not in the cards until the other pieces of the puzzle come into play. Thatís not because we donít appreciate Edgerrin or what heís done or what he will do. Itís because all of those issues impact directly on how we manage the cap and what we can afford to spend. I wish it were otherwise but it isnít, so were going to go ahead and play this season. Weíll deal with Edgerrinís issues at the end of the season.

Q: How soon might there be a CBA?

A: Weíve had a series of league meetings cancelled because the commissioner did not feel we made enough progress in the ongoing talks with the union. Right now, it does not look like there is progress. Those things can change overnight, but in order to get a CBA, youíre probably talking about a 2-to-3 month intensive process and theyíre not even at the intensive stage yet. I would say if it gets done by the end of the season that would be an optimistic point of view.

Q: What do you see being the problem on short-yardage?

A: Weíre not in it a whole heck of a lot if you compare us to a team like Baltimore or the Carolina Panthers. They run the ball extensively. Theyíre going to be in it a lot more. Theyíre going to have a lot more practice at it and know what plays are good and what plays arenít good. Weíre not in it that much. We donít see that situation, because weíre much more of a big-play, vertical, down-the-field offense or a big-play running offense. Thereís a school of though that says when youíre down there and face 4th-and-1, 4th-and-2, open it up and go to your conventional offense anyway. Run out of that. If you want to run the ball, great. If you want to throw it, you can do that, too. We had good success doing that last year. We made a conscious attempt to try to do it the other way, but clearly it wasnít good enough Sunday night. Two things happen when youíre bunched up down there. Number one, bigger people come in the game and theyíre harder to move. Number two, holes donít open up as clearly as they do when youíre spread out. The back has a tendency sometimes to make the wrong move, hit the wrong hole, cut back too soon. Thatís been a problem for us. Itís something we need to work on. Iíd be the first to tell you. Itís something we havenít done well traditionally. We havenít been a good short-yardage, goal-line running team for quite some time. We need to improve that.

Q: A different kind of security at the RCA Dome beginning Sunday. Can you discuss that and why itís necessary?

A: The league office has determined based on experiences that theyíve had in the playoffs that this is the best and most efficient way to secure the stadium and make sure these huge groups of people in one place donít create a security hazard in this unfortunate day and age in which we live. Please get there a little early, please bear with us. Itís not something we like to do. Itís something weíre forced to do and hopefully, everybody will go with it in that sprit and weíll have a safe and secure situation.

Q: A very big game against Jacksonville for it being so early in the season.

A: A very big game. Sometimes, you wonder how they schedule these things. You go from the frying pan into the fire. But youíve got to play somebody. This is a team thatís itching to beat us, thinks theyíve got our number and thinks theyíre better than we are. They really believe they can win this division and go on to great things in the playoffs. They had a convincing win against Seattle at home. Now, they come into our building where they beat us last year with a thrilling, two-minute comeback. Weíve got to get down to work and understand the Baltimore win was a nice win, but itís over. We have a chance to celebrate Monday. Itís over now. Weíre on to Jacksonville. Youíve got the 24-hour rule. You can celebrate 24 hours or wallow around 24 hours if you lose. Once that 24 hours is over, on to the next one.

http://www.colts.com/sub.cfm?page=article7&news_id=3066

obnoxiousmodesty
09-14-2005, 12:21 PM
For example, if (Colts running back) Edgerrin (James) had not worked in preseason maybe he fumbles the ball in tight quarters Sunday night. That would have probably determined the outcome of the game. He didnít.

Very subtle, Bill. You are the master of disguise. :laugh:

Geez.

Suaveness
09-14-2005, 02:19 PM
Q: How important is it to sign running back Edgerrin James to a long-term deal?

A: I hope I can answer this question in detail for the last time. Iíll give you the answer that I gave Drew Rosenhaus, Edgerrinís agent. In order for us to understand what we need to do to enter into long-term negotiations with Edgerrin, we have to have a collective bargaining agreement in place. That is not yet the case and I donít anticipate itís going to be the case any time soon Ė that is, within the next 6-to-8 weeks. Secondly, we have to know what the salary cap is going to be for next year. If there is no CBA, the salary cap will be one number if there is a CBA, itís likely the salary cap will be another number. Finally, in order to enter into negotiations we have to know what rules will be in effect relative to how the salary cap is counted and will there be any changes? Might there be changes in a new CBA? Yes, very likely. What are they? I canít say right now, but those things have to be in place before we can formulate a plan that makes sense for us and might make sense for Edgerrin. None of those things are in place, so my focus is completely off any attempt to sign Edgerrin to a long-term contract. Itís just not in the cards until the other pieces of the puzzle come into play. Thatís not because we donít appreciate Edgerrin or what heís done or what he will do. Itís because all of those issues impact directly on how we manage the cap and what we can afford to spend. I wish it were otherwise but it isnít, so were going to go ahead and play this season. Weíll deal with Edgerrinís issues at the end of the season.


So maybe he still wants to sign him?

pizza guy
09-14-2005, 02:39 PM
I think we want to re-sign. And, truthfully, I think he wants to re-sign here. Edge, Irsay, and Polian have always gotten along and enjoyed a good working relationship. If the money prohibits us from resigning him, it's going to suck. But, I still think it's possible and the front office wants to do it.

I hope so, at least.

Shaggy
09-14-2005, 04:42 PM
I know a lot of people think Polian is so full of himself that Narcissus would blush, but I am extremely thankful for his stewardship. One of the highlights of my football season is Polian's Monday afternoon game critique with Bob "The Big Man" Lamey on Q95. I actually plan my work day around that program so I can be sure to listen to it on the way home. Once you get past the arrogance and condescension, you can learn a lot about the game of football (both on the field and behind the scenes). Polian is one of the few football executives who can both complain on Monday mornings with the rest of us and actually help shift rule interpretations and the way the league works. Polian had a lot of sway on how refs are now holding (pardon the pun) defensive backs accountable to the rules (e.g. no contact after 5 yards).

I will get off my soapbox, but wanted to put in some good words where so few are mentioned.

BluBlood
09-14-2005, 05:09 PM
I know a lot of people think Polian is so full of himself that Narcissus would blush, but I am extremely thankful for his stewardship. One of the highlights of my football season is Polian's Monday afternoon game critique with Bob "The Big Man" Lamey on Q95. I actually plan my work day around that program so I can be sure to listen to it on the way home. Once you get past the arrogance and condescension, you can learn a lot about the game of football (both on the field and behind the scenes). Polian is one of the few football executives who can both complain on Monday mornings with the rest of us and actually help shift rule interpretations and the way the league works. Polian had a lot of sway on how refs are now holding (pardon the pun) defensive backs accountable to the rules (e.g. no contact after 5 yards).

I will get off my soapbox, but wanted to put in some good words where so few are mentioned.

Love Polian's radio show. He is an arrogant ***, but he's OUR arrogant ***. (that didnt come out right, oh well)

Love him or hate him, he is a football guy who has built winning teams everywhere he goes. Hopefully this team gets over the hump and brings home the gold.