By Tom James
INDIANAPOLIS — Two or three. When it comes to the number of quarterbacks that the Indianapolis Colts will end up keeping during the regular season, that’s the question that head coach Jim Caldwell and team president Bill Polian must ultimately answer.
It’s only happened once before during the Peyton Manning era, in 2004, that the Colts have had three quarterbacks on their regular season roster. And that was only for a brief period of time. What that being the case, who will end up staying — veteran Jim Sorgi or rookie draft pick Curtis Painter. Hurting Sorgi’s case is the fact that he has been sidelined for most of the team’s training camp period with a strained right hamstring. He returned to practice last week but has yet to play in a preseason game.
That should change Thursday night when Indianapolis plays at Cincinnati.
Painter, meanwhile, has played well when he’s gotten the opportunity to play in Sorgi’s absence. Through the first three preseason games, the former Purdue signal caller has completed 30-of-50 passes for 338 yards and two interceptions. He has completed 60 percent of his passes.
What to do? Sorgi is the veteran and knows the Colts’ offensive playbook inside and out. Painter has been running an abridged version of the playbook, but has moved the team when he’s been in the game.
Here are the options:
• Keep both.
• Keep Sorgi and try to get Painter through the waivers process so that he could be re-signed to the Colts’ practice squad.
• Keep Painter and release Sorgi.
The potential problem of keeping both quarterbacks is that injuries at other positions — safety Bob Sanders and cornerback Kelvin Hayden, most notably — may not allow that to happen. With only 53 players eligible to be on the regular season roster, the Colts could be caught in a numbers game.
By releasing Painter and holding on to Sorgi, Indianapolis would run the risk of losing the Vincennes native to another team before he could be brought back to the practice squad. But if the decision is made to hold on to Painter, then the Colts wouldn’t have much experience backing up starter Peyton Manning in case of a major injury.
“It’s always something every year that we grapple with. It’s typically one of those situations where you have to kind of weigh and measure everything and then make a determination,” Caldwell said Tuesday.
“Over the years, we’ve typically had two [quarterbacks] and occasionally have had three. So this year, obviously, is one that we’ll have to take a look at all the factors involved once the [Cincinnati] game is over and make a determination.”
Both Painter and Sorgi are expected to split most of the quarterbacking duties against the Bengals. It hasn’t been decided yet if Manning will even take the field at Paul Brown Stadium; he hasn’t played in the Colts’ final preseason game in five years.
“[Sorgi] can use some good quality work. We haven’t necessarily given him a definitive number [of plays] as of yet. We’re going to wait until after [Tuesday’s] practice and then we’ll sit down and talk as a staff, kind of see where things are and then make a determination on how many reps he’s going to get [against the Bengals],” the Colts coach said.
“But he could certainly use some work obviously. It’s been limited work that he’s had thus far in the preseason.”
One thing is certain. No final decisions will be made until Friday at the earliest. All NFL teams must make their final roster cuts no later than 4 p.m. Sunday.
• Roster moves — The Colts got down to the league-mandated limit of 75 players Tuesday by waiving safety Marcus Paschal.
Paschal had been signed last week after safety Matt Giordano suffered a strained groin in a preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles two weeks ago. Giordano, though, returned to practice on Monday and may be cleared to play Thursday night against the Bengals.
n Injury list — Among those sitting out Tuesday’s practice was Hayden (hamstring), running back Mike Hart (ankle), wide receiver Sam Giguere (leg), tight end Tom Santi (ankle) along with offensive guards Mike Pollak (undisclosed) and Ryan Lilja (bruised shoulder).
Safety Bob Sanders (knee) and placekicker Adam Vinatieri (knee/hip) remain on the Colts’ physically unable to perform list.