By Tom James
INDIANAPOLIS — The reaction to the comments offered up by Indianapolis punter Hunter Smith in the wake of Sunday’s 21-14 win over Jacksonville has been swift and to the point.
Smith, known in recent years as the less talkative of the Colts’ kickers, created a mini-controversy when he seemed to take the Jaguars to task for their style of play.
Jacksonville was flagged twice for personal fouls in the loss to Indianapolis, marking the second straight game between the teams over the last two seasons that Coach Jack Del Rio’s team was penalized for overzealous play.
“Jacksonville is like the standup comic who can only use vulgarity and curse words because he lacks intelligence and lacks class. He really doesn’t have anything to say. Our intangible is our class and our intelligence. A team that gets personal fouls the way they do, the roughing penalties, they just don’t have any material,” Smith was quoted as saying during a post-game interview Sunday with the Indianapolis Star.
Those comments found their way to Florida, causing Del Rio to offer his response on Monday: “It must be something with the kickers over there. If [Smith] starts talking about Peyton, let me know.”
He didn’t stop there.
“What did the punter say? They play clean? They don’t vault? They don’t do anything that’s dirty?,” he asked a Jacksonville reporter. “I alerted the officials before the game about the clubbing of linemen, the vaulting on field goals. Both occurred. We’ll put it in the game report like we always do.”
By Wednesday, the Colts — primarily Smith — were trying to diffuse the situation.
“First of all, I think Peyton is a great quarterback and Tony is a great coach. Let me say that,” he said. “And, you know, really, football is an emotional game and I just made an off-the-cuff statement, misstated something. Basically, my whole beef is just with unsportsmanlike conduct. I have the utmost respect for the Jacksonville Jaguars, for coach Del Rio.
“I wasn’t trying to attack the character of even the players involved in some of those fouls. But, rather, just the actions. As NFL players, its our responsibility to be models of sportsmanship and on the field integrity to everyone, especially other kids. I get frustrated when I don’t see that. It’s certainly not something that’s limited to the Jacksonville Jaguars. We have issues with that even on the Colts and on every team. That sort of thing happens. I just apologize for saying that. It was just an off-the-cuff statement. No big deal. (It’s) over, hopefully.”
For his part, Dungy wasn’t happy with Smith’s comments.
“I don’t have any reaction to (Del Rio’s) comments. We talked about our comments. It’s a little disappointing to me. I encourage our guys to talk and say what’s on their mind, but we like to think as an organization we talk about ourselves, we talk about what we do and we leave how other people play, how other people coach, what other perceptions of other teams, really, to other people,” he said.
“So that was the message. It’s an unfortunate incident. Hunter Smith talked to me about it. It’s something that we don’t like to do. We don’t want to comment on other people and we’ll just leave it at that.”
As to Del Rio’s accusations that the Colts’ illegally vault on field goal attempts, Dungy said that he had talked to league officials prior to the regular-season opener about the way the team lines up in those situations.
“We actually sent five [video] clips of the technique that we use in the first game because of the way the [New York] Giants field goal protected. We asked about it. The league told us it was okay,” he said. “We got a little different answer the second time around. So I guess I’ll put vaulting in with pass interference and holding. Right now, we’re really not sure what it is.
“I asked about it [how the Colts line up] the first time we did it. And I was told it was good technique, it was fine. And now the second time, it’s not. I thought the first [non-pass interference call] on [wide receiver] Marvin [Harrison] wasn’t pass interference and the second one should have been. My understanding now is that I’m just exactly wrong. It was the other way around. I’m not sure anymore, so we’ll just try to play as best we can and hope we don’t get called for too many penalties.”
• Wayne due back Thursday — Wide receiver Reggie Wayne is expected back from Louisiana Thursday. There is still no definite word on whether Wayne, who’s older brother was killed in a traffic accident Sunday near the family’s home in Kenner, La., will play this week against the New York Jets.
There have been reports that the funeral for Rashad Wayne, 32, could be next Tuesday, which would allow players and coaches from around the NFL to attend. But nothing had been confirmed as of Wednesday.
“I don’t know a lot of the [funeral] plans yet. I talked to Reggie [Tuesday] night. He is planning on being back here sometime [Thursday]. They’ve got a lot of arrangements to make. And we certainly wanted to do all that. Right now, that’s about all I can tell you,” the Colts coach said Wednesday.
“They may have some word coming out of New Orleans, what all the arrangements are. As of yet, I don’t know that. But the last conversation I had with Reggie, he’s planning on being back here [Thursday] if everything goes well.”
Dungy said that while he wasn’t sure if Wayne would take part in practice this afternoon, but he thinks he might decide to play against the Jets.
“Right now, I think he will,” he said.
• Injury updates — Defensive tackle Montae Reagor was held out of Wednesday’s practice but is expected to start Sunday in New York. Reagor has been sitting out the team’s midweek practices since the regular-season began in order to rest a sore knee.
Defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Josh Thomas returned to practice and are expected to start against the Jets this week. Freeney started last week’s game with Jacksonville despite missing the preceding week of practice with a lower back (strained buttock muscle) injury. Thomas sat out the last two weeks as he nursed a hip flexor injury.
Cornerback Marlin Jackson sat out Wednesday’s practice after suffering a concussion against Jacksonville. Jackson will have to undergo a neurological test sometime this week in order to be cleared for the Jets game.
Kelvin Hayden may end up starting Sunday if Jackson is unable to play. Hayden missed last week’s game with Jacksonville due to a strained groin. He was able to practice Wednesday.
The rest of the Colts’ injury list includes defensive tackle Corey Simon (knee), wide receiver Brandon Stokley (ankle), placekicker Adam Vinatieri (groin), cornerback Nick Harper (groin, ankle), safety Bob Sanders (thigh, knee), defensive tackle Darrell Reid (elbow), middle linebacker Gary Brackett (thigh), cornerback Tim Jennings (knee), outside linebacker Freddie Keiaho (knee), defensive tackle Dan Klecko (back), offensive guard Jake Scott (knee), tight end Ben Utecht (groin), offensive guard Dylan Gandy (abdomen), offensive guard Ryan Lilja (knee), offensive tackle Ryan Diem (thumb) and running back DeDe Dorsey (ankle).
Sitting out Wednesday’s practice, along with Jackson and Reagor, were Simon, Stokley, Vinatieri, Harper, Sanders, Reid, Lilja, Gandy, Klecko and Diem.
“It’s really more (Sanders) mobility right now,” Dungy said. “He had it looked at and worked on and saw a specialist. I don’t know all the details.”
• Carthon waived — Running back Ran Carthon was waived by the Colts on Wednesday. Carthon scored a rushing touchdown against Houston two weeks ago. He might return later depending on the team’s injury situation.