Once again, Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., it’s the Indianapolis Colts playing the New England Patriots.
The two franchises haven’t been in the AFC East since 2001. Yet due to the quirks of the NFL scheduling system, this is the 10th straight year that the Colts and Patriots have faced off against one another.
“It’s like a division game,” New England coach Bill Belichick said during Wednesday’s teleconference.
First it was rookie quarterback Peyton Manning and veteran Patriots signal-caller Drew Bledsoe. Then it was Manning and a young Tom Brady. Now it’s come full circle to be former Super Bowl MVP Brady and Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck.
Times have changed. So has the makeup of the two franchises.
The only constants in the series over the last 10 years have been Belichick, who is in his 13th season with the Patriots, and Brady.
Indianapolis, meanwhile, has countered on the sidelines with Jim Mora, Tony Dungy, Jim Caldwell and now interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.
Arians, filling in for coach Chuck Pagano as he recovers from treatments for leukemia, knows the Patriots well from his days as an assistant with Indianapolis, Cleveland and, most recently, Pittsburgh.
That knowledge of how Belichick likes to set up defenses against inexperienced quarterbacks should come in handy.
Arians, though, says the Colts won’t be doing much different in how they prepare for the Patriots as compared to other opponents this season.
“I think at this point of the time in the year, when you get into November football and you are in the hunt, everyone should spend a little more time, sacrifice a little bit more, to prepare yourself because you are playing for now. To play for more, you do more,” he said Wednesday.
“I don’t think [Luck] has to do anything different than he’s been doing. Study the tape, it’s all out there. We have had a pretty good relationship and I’ve had a good experience against coach Belichick over the years with young quarterbacks and old quarterbacks. I kind of feel that I have a pretty good handle of what to see. We’ll have him ready.”
Physiologically, Arians wants to make sure his rookie quarterback doesn’t get caught up in the notion that he has to match everything Brady does on the field Sunday.
“The thing about that is [Luck has] got to realize that [he doesn’t] play Tom Brady. [He and the rest of the offense] have to get ready for their defense,” he said.
“The best way to handle Tom Brady is to play real good yourself and keep him on the bench. That’s easier said than done with their defense.”
Going on the road to Gillette Stadium with a young team is not an easy task in the best of situations. Arians knows that.
“We have to first and foremost protect the football because they lead the league in turnovers. They’ve got 13 fumbles and 10 interceptions. When we’re in piles, a half a yard doesn’t mean as much as protect the football,” he said.
“They do a great job of stripping the ball. It’s a matter of you executing your offense, scoring as many points as you can and let the team take care of the rest. Don’t get caught up standing there and watching [Brady].”
The fact that over two-thirds of the Colts’ roster wasn’t around last year can be more than a little disconcerting.
“It’s funny because I had a show of hands of how many guys in the lockerroom that this was their first trip to Foxborough. Way too many,” Arians said with a laugh and a shake of his head.
• Injury list — Cornerback Vontae Davis (knee) and rookie tight end Coby Fleener (shoulder) have been ruled out of the New England game.
Davis and Fleener, though, might be back in time for the following week’s home game with Buffalo.
“We’re hoping [getting Davis back] possibly next week, shooting for Detroit for sure but we got our fingers crossed he can get back next week,” Arians said. “Coby ran around a lot last week and is starting to heal. It could be next week also for him.”
Outside linebacker Robert Mathis (back), center Samson Satele (back), offensive tackle Winston Justice (knee) and running back Donald Brown (knee) all fully participated in Wednesday’s practice.
• Chapman might see work -- Rookie nose tackle Josh Chapman is expected to be brought along slowly in the week leading up to the Patriots game.
Chapman was added to the active roster earlier this week after being cleared to play. He had been sidelined since undergoing knee surgery in January. The former Alabama standout may be a game-day inactive depending on how he does the rest of this week in practice.
“It’s just a matter of if he’s healthy and if he’s the next best player we have to dress on Sunday. We’ll make that determination as the week goes along,” Arians said. “He’s been cleared to play. We have some nice depth in our defensive line right now so there’s not a need to push him out there if he’s not ready. We’ll wait and see how that goes.”
Rookie offensive tackle Justin Anderson, who has been out with a foot injury since the start of training camp, is going through the same three-week review process that Chapman just completed.
“He’s coming along. He’s practiced two or three weeks now, two weeks. He’s got a long way to go consistency-wise. Hopefully we can keep him going. We don’t have to make that [roster] move for at least another week,” Arians said.
• Butler did it — Cornerback Darius Butler has been named as the AFC’s Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against Jacksonville last Thursday.
A second-round pick by New England in 2009, Butler had a pair of interceptions — including one run back for a touchdown — in the win over the Jaguars. He also recovered a fumble that helped set up the Colts’ first touchdown of the game.
While he was in New England, Butler became friends with Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker. The two former teammates will renew acquaintances Sunday.
“Obviously, I was there for two years with Wes. We actually work out offseason at the same place, so we’re definitely familiar with each other as far as athletic ability,” Butler said. “It’ll be a great matchup. He’s one of the best receivers in the game, obviously one of the most productive in the past few years in this league. It’ll be a great matchup for us, for this defense.”
Once again, Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., it’s the Indianapolis Colts playing the New England Patriots.
Colts not standing pat in looking toward 2013 season
Indianapolis Colts second-year general manager Ryan Grigson has quickly earned a reputation as someone who isn’t afraid to shake things up a bit.
Landry believes he'll acclimate to Colts system
Many Indianapolis fans have questioned why strong safety Laron Landry decided to skip the Colts' OTA workouts, especially since he was joining a new team with a somewhat different defensive system than what he was used to playing with the Jets.
He understands their concerns, but isn’t worried about learning the intricacies Colts’ 3-4 hybrid package.
Colts in harmony with new coordinator Hamilton
With new Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton now running the show, the Colts are in the middle of a metamorphosis from the downfield, big-play system that was utilized by former coordinator Bruce Arians to more of a West Coast scheme that will look to make more use of the short, controlled passing game.
According to Andrew Luck, so far so good.
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Luck having fun with his first OTAs
A year ago, quarterback Andrew Luck was unable to attend the Indianapolis Colts’ organized team activity practices due to school commitments at Stanford.
Luck, though, went on to have a stellar year for the Colts despite the lack of summer work with the team. Still, in a sense, he is a rookie during this year’s OTA workouts.
“These are my first OTAs. I missed these last year, so I think it’s great. It’s great to get on the field with the defense and trouble-shoot some stuff. Obviously, some of us ran some of this stuff [offense] at Stanford [under new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton]. But to get out there with the defense and trouble-shoot some stuff is good,” Luck said Wednesday as the team wrapped up its first week of on-field voluntary practice sessions.
Colts' coordinators enjoying getting rookies acclimated
While the Indianapolis Colts put their rookies and a handful of second-year players through workouts this weekend at the team’s Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, a pair of first-year coordinators are getting a chance to do some valuable on-field work as well.
Werner, 36 others open Colts’ mini camp
The Indianapolis Colts welcomed 37 players to the start of the team’s rookie mini camp Friday at the West 56th Street headquarters.
Colts hoping for more high marks on draft picks
A year ago, the Indianapolis Colts received high marks for the impact players the team added through the NFL draft.
Of the 10 players selected, five ended up either starting or seeing extensive playing time (quarterback Andrew Luck, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and running back Vick Ballard) during the Colts’ 11-5 season.
While this year’s class may not rival that group in terms of name recognition and flash, it may produce just as many major contributors once the 2013 season gets underway.
Werner at top of game
Bjoern Werner was a late comer to football. But after being selected in the first round of the 2013 National Football League draft by the Indianapolis Colts, Werner realizes that he has reached the pinnacle of the sport in a relatively short amount of time.
Colts select pass rusher Werner in first round
The Indianapolis Colts selected Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner. The 6-foot-3, 266-pound defensive lineman can also play left outside linebacker.
Colts in wait-and-see mode for tonight’s NFL draft
As the 2013 NFL draft gets underway tonight at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the Indianapolis Colts are continuing their wait-and-see stance in regard to the first-round pick.
The draft begins at 8 p.m. — televised by the NFL Network and ESPN — with the Kansas City Chiefs making the night’s first selection. Teams will have 10 minutes to make their decisions during the first round. Indianapolis will have the 24th overall pick in the first round.
There will be only one round tonight. The second and third rounds are scheduled for Friday, beginning at 6:30 p.m. with seven minutes allotted per pick in the second round and five minutes allowed in the third. The final four rounds are slated to begin at noon Saturday with four minutes between selections.
As it stands now, Indianapolis does not have a second-round pick. It was traded to Miami last fall in exchange for veteran cornerback Vontae Davis. But second-year general manager Ryan Grigson has nut ruled out the possibility of trading down from the first round if the Colts aren’t satisfied with the players available.
Direction clear for Colts in 2013 draft
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Colts veteran among those excited to see Luck's growth in 2013-14
Veteran defensive end Cory Redding is a big fan — literally and figuratively — of Indianapolis Colts second-year quarterback Andrew Luck.
Redding, who has become one of the Colts’ lockerroom leaders after just one season with the team, thinks he has some reasonable expectations of Indianapolis’ former No. 1 draft pick.
Heyward-Bey feeling fortunate to hook up with Luck
Add one more player to the list of veteran free agents signed by the Indianapolis Colts this offseason.
Former Oakland Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey agreed to a a deal with the Colts late Monday evening. Bey, who played collegiately at Maryland, was the seventh player selected in the first round of the 2009 National Football League draft.
Colts sign nose tackle
Another day, more player signings for the Indianapolis Colts.
Nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin agreed to terms with the Colts on Tuesday evening and officially signed with the team Wednesday. Franklin (6-1, 315) is a 10-year NFL veteran with stops in Baltimore (2003-06), San Francisco (2007-10), New Orleans (2011) and San Diego (2012).
Colts sign Matt Hasselbeck to back up Luck
The Indianapolis Colts’ roster moves just keep coming.
While the Colts haven’t yet added that big-name wide receiver that team owner Jim Irsay hinted at in tweets over the weekend, Indianapolis has addressed one area on offense.
Former Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had agreed Monday night to be the Colts’ primary back-up to second-year starter Andrew Luck. He officially signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the team Tuesday morning.
“We are very pleased to announce the signing of Matt Hasselbeck,” general manager Ryan Grigson said in a prepared statement. “His body of work, intangibles, and extensive league experience speak for themselves. Those factors, plus his familiarity with our offensive scheme, will make him a great asset to our team and its vision as we move forward.”
Colts likely done signing free agents, for now
With the possible exception of adding a few lesser-priced players, the Indianapolis Colts’ big-time foray into the veteran free-agent marketplace is pretty much done.
Landry, Jean Francois join Colts defensive unit
After adding five veteran free agent players to the Indianapolis Colts roster on Tuesday, general manager Ryan Grigson plucked two more plums late Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon.
New York Jets safety LaRon Landry and San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois both signed contracts with the Colts. Landry, a strong safety who appears to be a bigger version of former Indianapolis Pro Bowler Bob Sanders, and the versatile Jean-Francois are expected to make immediate impacts on the Colts’ defensive unit.
Colts introduce free-agent signees
What the Indianapolis Colts accomplished last season — posting an 11-5 record and earning an AFC wild-card berth with a young team plus having that kind of success without its head coach on the sidelines for 12 games — didn’t go unnoticed by players around the NFL.
That was especially true for the five veteran free agents who were added to the Colts’ roster Tuesday. Offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus (Detroit), cornerback Greg Toler (Arizona), outside linebacker Erik Walden (Green Bay), offensive guard Donald Thomas (New England) and linebacker Lawrence Sidbury (Atlanta) admitted as much Wednesday.
“I felt like this would be the best fit for me at this point in my career. I really liked what I saw was happening with the program here and the way things have taken shape. I feel like we have a really great team here and it’s on the rise. I really wanted to be a part of that,” Thomas said during a teleconference interview with the Colts’ media.
Colts sign five free agents, filling needs at offensive line, cornerback
The Indianapolis Colts were a busy team on the opening day of the National Football League’s veteran free agent market, which got underway at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Jeff Saturday retires as a Colt
An Indianapolis Colt for life. Pencil in Jeff Saturday for that honor.
The 14-year veteran center in the NFL put an official stamp on a career Thursday that began in Baltimore in 1998 and ended in Green Bay in 2012. But it was those 13 seasons in between — from 1999 to 2011 in which he played for Indianapolis — when Saturday earned his greatest rewards.
Saturday thrilled to retire as a Colt
The 14-year veteran center in the National Football League put an official stamp on a career Thursday that began in Baltimore in 1998 and ended in Green Bay in 2012. But it was those 13 seasons in-between — from 1999 to 2011 in which he played for Indianapolis — that Saturday earned his greatest rewards.
Saturday to retire as Colt on Thursday
Former Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday will make his retirement from the National Football League official on Thursday.
Indianapolis franchises punter McAfee
A week ago, Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano said it was a priority that the team retain the services of punter Pat McAfee.
McAfee, an unrestricted free agent who’s contract is due to expire March 12, was designated as the Colts’ franchise player Friday. The move allows Indianapolis extra time to work out a long-term deal for the team’s special-teams ace.
“He’s huge. He’s a major priority in free agency. Obviously, we’ve reached out and are working to get Pat re-signed,” Pagano said during the National Football Scouting Combine. “We saw what he did for us last year. He’s a great weapon, not only kickoffs and touchbacks.
Colts GM enjoying time at combine
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Colts keeping eye on large crop of talented linemen in NFL Draft
According to most National Football League draft observers, this year’s crop of prospects is deep with quality offensive and defensive linemen.
Among the offensive line candidates who have been showcasing their talents at the National Football Scouting Combine, which began in earnest Thursday and wraps up on Tuesday, the spotlight has been on the offensive tackles. Offensive left tackles in particular.
Colts' Pagano back to full work schedule at combine
Back and ready to go.
That’s the attitude Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano is taking during the National Football Scouting Combine, which completed its second day of operations Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium. During a wide-ranging press conference at the combine, Pagano confirmed that he is back to a full work regimen after missing 12 games last fall as he battled a rare form of leukemia.
After undergoing cancer treatments that featured heavy doses of chemotherapy, the second-year head coach was able to return to the sidelines for Indianapolis’ final regular-season home game against Houston and for the team’s AFC wild-card matchup with eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore.
Colts looking forward to different approach to draft in 2013
A year ago, the Indianapolis Colts had the first overall pick in the 2012 National Football League draft.
It was a foregone conclusion that the Colts would select former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the selection. While Indianapolis front office and player personnel officials certainly had to do their due diligence in preparing for the draft, the Colts find themselves this year in a bit different situation.
The team will have the 24th overall pick in the first round, which is a double-edged sword. Indianapolis picks lower in the round due to a successful season. But the pool of available can’t-miss talent isn’t quite as plentiful as drafting earlier in the round.
Former Pro Bowl selection Freeney won't return to Colts
The news coming out of the Indianapolis Colts headquarters Friday afternoon was not totally unexpected. Team officials have confirmed that two veteran players – former Pro Bowl defensive end/outside linebacker Dwight Freeney and wide receiver Austin Collie — will not be returning for the 2013 season.
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