Reggie Wayne knows exactly what’s going through the minds of the Kansas City Chiefs’ players as they prepare for Sunday’s home game with the Indianapolis Colts.
Kansas City’s 2-12 record is tied for worst in the NFL with Jacksonville. The Chiefs have this weekend’s game with Indianapolis, then they’ll wrap up the year on the road the following Sunday against AFC West champion Denver.
Wayne’s Colts squad finished 2-14 a year ago. Indianapolis, though, wound up winning two of its final three games, including victories over playoff hopeful Tennessee and AFC South champion Houston.
This year, the shoe is on the other foot. The Colts (9-5) are the team in position to clinch an AFC playoff berth. And Kansas City finds itself in the role of spoiler.
“I expect them to be professionals. I expect them to come out and play hard like they’ve been doing on film each week. I really don’t think their record indicates what type of team they are,” Wayne said after Friday’s indoor workout.
“When you watch them on film fly around, the defense is very good. A real good defensive line, something like the defensive line we played last week [at Houston]. I expect them to come out, give everything they’ve got and to continue to play football. So we’ve got to be ready.”
When talking to the team’s younger or new players, veterans like Wayne — and others who were on last year’s Colts squad — have been quick to remind them about what Indianapolis managed to do against the Titans and Texans.
“I really feel like Kansas City is going to do like we did. Last year at this time, we didn’t quit. We still wanted to go out there and win. We still wanted to do our thing in order to get a ‘W.’ We are professionals. Nobody wants to lose every week even when you’re not in the hunt. I expect Kansas City to be ready. They are playing at home, playing in front of their crowd and I really feel like they are going to come out and give everything they’ve got,” he said.
“If you watch the game against them the last three or four games, they’ve played really hard. There’s no quit in that team. That’s why I said the record doesn’t indicate the team that they are. We’ve got to be ready. We know what’s at stake. They know what’s at stake. We’ve got to go find a way to win on the road.”
• • •
• Waiting for Pagano — If all goes well over the next couple of days, coach Chuck Pagano will return to work Monday. Pagano has been absent from the Colts’ sidelines since early in the season when he was diagnosed with a form of leukemia. After three rounds of chemotherapy treatments, he has been cleared by his doctors to resume normal activities.
That includes a full work schedule at the team’s Farm Bureau Insurance complex early next week.
“It’s fantastic [news]. We’ll wait and see. Hopefully he’s strong enough and can hit the road Monday. Like we said, that’s always going to be the best Christmas present we can ask for,” interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said Friday.
“I think once he decides that he’s coming back and he’s full bore, that’s what it is [in charge]. He’s not going to come back unless he’s ready to go. He knows what this grind is and what we’re getting into. He knows he’s ready if he comes back.”
Indianapolis’ players are waiting to see what will happen Monday. Nobody knows for sure if Pagano or Arians will be leading the way against Houston in the regular-season home finale.
“For him to come back, he has to be 100-percent healthy and all that. Basically, he’s done [with treatments]. He’s here and the whole goal is not just for him to be on the sideline with us for one game but to make our mark to go in here, get on fire and do what we’ve got to do to prolong his appearance on the sideline. Go as long as we can in these playoffs,” defensive end Cory Redding said.
“Anything can happen when you’re in. We have yet to do a whole lot of things as a team and everybody can kind of read in between the lines on that. I believe this is about the time for guys to catch fire and do what we have to do.”
Redding, though, knows first things first. Stick to the plan. Beat Kansas City, clinching a playoff berth in the process, and then welcome their coach back.
“At the beginning of the season, once we got the news, it was first of all, we were going to win to prepare ourselves to be in this position to have the chance to be in the playoffs. Have him overcome his battle to be back on the sidelines with us. That was our goal. We haven’t done it yet,” he said.
“This game is big like every other game. Once we achieve our goal, we’ll come back in here on Monday having Chuck with us. I can’t wait to see him and can’t wait to have him in the front of the room, talking to the team that he assembled, especially the coaches and the core guys since April 2 when we got here.”
• Injury list — Safety Tom Zbikowski (knee) had been ruled out of the Kansas City game Monday, upgraded to questionable Wednesday and was ruled out, again, on Friday.
Zbikowski has been sidelined for the last three games. He has seen limited work in practice this past week.
“He tried to go all week, but he’s not quite ready,” Arians said. “Everybody else will be questionable. The original three guys plus Tommy will be out.”
Sitting out Friday’s workout were running back Delone Carter (ankle), center Samson Satele (ankle), inside linebacker Kavell Conner (hamstring) and nose tackle Antonio Johnson (ankle). Zbikowski was limited in practice.
Inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman (thumb), outside linebacker Dwight Freeney (ankle), offensive tackle Winston Justice (biceps), safety Joe Lefeged (knee), quarterback Andrew Luck (knee), center A.Q. Shipley (knee), cornerback Teddy Williams (knee) and nose tackle Martin Tevasue (illness) all fully participated in practice.
Carter, Satele, Conner and Zbikowski will not play against the Chiefs. Johnson, Justice and Shipley are questionable. Everybody else is probable.
If Shipley can’t play Sunday, offensive guard Mike McGlynn will move over from offensive guard. Joe Linkenbach, who has seen playing time at four positions, would replace McGlynn at guard.
“Mike McGlynn has worked a lot this week and has played a bunch of center. We’ll go that way and all of those guys will be game-time decisions,” Arians said, adding that Wayne was given a rare day off from practice Friday. “He’s fine. He’s earned a day off.”
When reminded that the Pro Bowl receiver would prefer to practice rather than sit out, the Colts’ assistant said he pulled rank.
“I know [Wayne rarely sits out practices],” Arians said with a laugh. “I had to force him.”