TERRE HAUTE —
Interviewed over the phone this week, Weatherford provided no bulletin-board material for the Colts, who may be tired of hearing Ryan describe this game as “personal” every time they turn on the television.
“I’m excited to be in the playoffs again, for sure, and I’m excited to play Indianapolis,” Weatherford said. “It’s a great, great team we’re playing.”
Although Weatherford didn’t make any score predictions or talk boastfully, the fifth-year NFL veteran made it clear that he had Ryan’s back.
“That’s just Rex,” he said. “He’s not going to sugarcoat it. That’s the type of guy he is. He’s a confident guy and whatever he thinks, he’s going to tell you.”
Weatherford mentioned there are reasons to believe the result of this year’s AFC wild-card clash could be different than last year’s AFC championship game, which the Colts won 30-17.
“Our entire team is different,” he explained. “[Quarterback] Mark Sanchez is more mature, a year older. We’ve added [cornerback] Antonio Cromartie, [defensive end] Jason Taylor and [wide receiver] Santonio Holmes. We’re a much more talented team [than last year]. The Colts, even though they’re coming off a four-game winning streak, they’re kinda banged up.”
True dat. The Colts will be without injured tight end Dallas Clark, wide receiver Austin Collie and safety Bob Sanders for as long as they last in the playoffs.
Nothing personal, Weatherford said, but he hopes they don’t last beyond this weekend.
“I’m going to do my best to make sure they’re working on a long field,” he promised. “Hopefully, we’re not punting the ball too much. . . But I’m ready for whatever.”
Although he didn’t make the Pro Bowl, Weatherford enjoyed a successful 2010. He averaged 42.6 yards per punt. More importantly, he pinned the Jets’ opponents inside the 20-yard line 42 times, tying an NFL single-season record.
“Having the record’s great,” he admitted, “but I’d much rather have a Super Bowl ring on my finger in about a month.”
Weatherford also ran one fake punt this season, gaining roughly 171⁄2 yards on a play that he called. The problem, unfortunately, was that he needed 18 yards for the first down.
Weatherford said his coaches understood why he took the chance in the first quarter of a 9-0 loss to Green Bay, although they weren’t exactly pleased.
“They were excited at first [because officials initially ruled it a first down],” he recalled. “Then the instant replay overturned the call. The coaches weren’t mad or anything.”
• Baseball notes — Two of my favorite Major League Baseball players from my childhood favorite team, the Minnesota Twins, made national news this week.
Curveballing pitcher Bert Blyleven was selected with Roberto Alomar to go into the Hall of Fame, while big-name sluggers were left out in the cold because of their alleged, admitted or proven involvement in the “Steroids Era.”
“Guys cheated,” Blyleven told The Associated Press when asked about the lack of votes for several names we all know well.
A few days earlier, Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew — my all-time favorite player and someone who never took steroids (or he would have hit 800-plus home runs instead of 573) — announced that he is battling esophageal cancer.
The AP story said Killebrew, 74, is receiving treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
I had the pleasure of meeting “The Killer” when he appeared at a Terre Haute function in August 2000. I wrote a column about how he was probably a better person than he was a baseball player, then he thanked me for it live on the radio the next day.
I wish I had asked for his phone number back then, but I thought that might be pushing my luck. So if anyone knows how to contact him, please relay that “the sportswriter from Terre Haute who interviewed Mr. Killebrew 10 years ago wishes him a speedy recovery.”
From one cancer survivor to another, I hope he knocks it out of the park.
• Personal note — Speaking of the dreaded “c” word, today marks the one-year anniversary of my last cancer-related surgery in Cincinnati.
Since I returned to work last March, I’ve been told by several readers and friends that they enjoy seeing my medical updates in this column. Still, I can’t help but think that as I continue to improve, these updates might start to get old.
So unless there’s a drastic change in my condition, this will be the final time I mention the status of my recovery. I’m doing pretty well — I’m working, I’m lifting, I’m jogging, I’m socializing — so it’s time to move on.
But if you don’t mind, let’s raise our glass one more time and say “cheers” to all of us trying to beat cancer.
David Hughes can be reached by phone after 4 p.m. at 1-800-783-8742, Option 4, or at (812) 231-4224; by
firstname.lastname@example.org; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.