With all due respect to Jeff Burris, when the Indianapolis Colts are talking about bringing back the once-flammable cornerback to bolster their skinny secondary, it's time to break into a flop sweat.
Who's next on Bill Polian's depth chart?
Chad Cota? David Gibson? Jason Belser?
It's only Week 2 of the NFL season, way too early to make any sorts of pronouncements or draw rock-solid conclusions. Always remember: Last year's Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots, lost their opener to Buffalo 31-0 and began the season at 2-2. Some of us remain convinced that even with Indy's obvious defensive shortcomings, they will exhibit their usual post-loss resiliency and put it to the Titans this weekend.
Already, though, the Colts, and their secondary, are in survival mode. They don't have to win Sunday in Nashville, but they need to get through the early part of this draconian schedule at least 2-2, no small task with games at Nashville, at home against Green Bay and on the road in Jacksonville.
"All these injuries couldn't come at a worse time," cornerback Nick Harper said Thursday.
Not that there's any good time, mind you, but this is, at least in theory, the toughest part of the schedule. There was Tom Brady last week, throwing for a mere 335 yards. Steve McNair this week (and his arm will be fresh after throwing for just 73 yards against the Dolphins). Brett Favre in the home opener. And a rapidly improving Byron Leftwich with the Jags.
This will be more than just a test of depth. It will be a test of Tony Dungy's much-ballyhooed defensive acumen, forcing him to make do with a secondary that has less depth than Jessica Simpson. And it will be a test of Polian's philosophy to draft and grow your own.
In a perfect world, the Colts would have begun the season with a pretty imperfect and inexperienced secondary. Either Harper or Joseph Jefferson on one corner, Donald Strickland on the other corner, with Mike Doss and top draft pick Bob Sanders at the safeties.
That was until Sanders became the last of 255 draftees to sign with his team.
That was until Jefferson, who was counted upon to play big minutes despite never having played the position in the pros, suffered his annual injury.
That was until Doss' hamstring went pop during the New England game Sept. 9.
That was until Cory Bird, who was supposed to add depth to the secondary, missed the first game because of concussion-related issues.
The good news is that Bird is back -- when the docs asked him his name, he said "Ronnie Lott," so he's been cleared to play -- and will replace Doss at safety.
The bad news is, nobody else is returning any time soon. Doss won't be back for a couple of weeks. Jefferson won't be back for a couple of weeks. And Sanders, well, he won't play for a while and remains, at least for me, a mystery on the order of crop circles.
As of Thursday, he still hadn't practiced with the team. This, despite the fact he says his foot is fine and Dungy says his foot is fine -- well, "structurally sound," which is what the Colts coach said about Edgerrin James' back injury last year, which turned out to be two broken vertebrae.
When Sanders was asked Thursday about his status, he talked a lot about how he needed to get conditioned to the point where he can be productive.
Pardon? He's 23 years old. And one look at him, it's obvious he didn't waste those lost days of training camp by eating Krispy Kremes. We should all be as out of condition as Sanders.
"Everything's pretty good with the foot," Sanders said. "If they gave me the go-ahead, I'd be ready. I've had a lot of time to get ready mentally. When they call, I'll be there."
The Colts are talking about maybe Week 5.
Color me confused.
So here's who's left in the Colts' secondary (and this assumes Burris won't be on the roster by the time the paper reaches your driveway):
• Harper, who got toasted most of the New England game before making a key interception late.
• Strickland, who will be playing cornerback for the second time since he was at the University of Colorado.
• Bird, who has been a depth player for most of his Colts career.
• And Idrees Bashir, a former second-round pick whose stock has fallen so precipitously, the Colts chose to make Sanders, another safety, their top pick this summer.
They can get by with that group, especially if the offense puts up the requisite 30 points, but one more injury and they'll be checking the speed-dial for Eugene Daniel's number.
When Dungy was asked earlier this week about the state of his secondary, he noted how Bird would replace Doss on Sunday, then added, "We should look just like we were for New England, other than that one change."