INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Reality hit hard as soon as
December 30, 2019 at 6:23 am #35254
the Indianapolis Colts walked into their locker room Monday morning.Andrew Luck’s stall was empty Ryan Kelly Color Rush Jersey , the name plate gone, the era over.Coach Frank Reich and general manager Chris Ballard started the day with a team meeting to discuss how the Colts would proceed without their newly retired starting quarterback.Luck’s replacement, Jacoby Brissett, took the podium inside a packed media room, Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton wore a Stanford baseball cap to honor his 2012 draft classmate and then it was time to get back to work.“In one respect this story is unique and shocking,” coach Frank Reich said. “But it’s happened enough where a team loses a great player, and it galvanizes a team and propels them to a championship.”The former pastor has a vast array of resources to make the point, some from his own experiences.In 1989, when Jim Kelly got hurt most thought the Buffalo Bills would slow things down for his backup, Reich.Instead, coach Marv Levy didn’t change a thing and Reich responded by leading the Bills to three consecutive wins. Three years later, with Kelly out again, Reich won two playoff games, including the greatest comeback in postseason history as the Bills eventually won their third straight AFC title.In 2017, Reich was Philadelphia’s offensive coordinator when MVP candidate Carson Wentz tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee — an injury many expected to derail the Eagles’ title hopes. Instead, Nick Foles stepped in and led Philadelphia to its first title since 1960.Then there was the seemingly made-for-TV script from two decades ago when a grocery store bagger-turned-quarterback Kurt Warner took over for the injured Trent Green and led the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl title. Warner was the league’s MVP, too.But Reich and the Colts know this season is not about the past. They must focus on adding their own, unique chapter to the underdog story to fill the hole in the middle of the locker room.“I need to be Jacoby Brissett, just be myself,” he said when asked about permanently replacing his close friend. “It’s always been prepare like you’re the starter.”Outside the locker room, many doubt Brissett can emerge as the next Foles, Warner or even Reich. Brissett went 4-11 in 2017, becoming the starter less than two weeks after Indy acquired him in a trade from New England https://www.coltsfanshop.com/Margus-Hunt-Jersey , behind an offensive line that allowed the most sacks in the NFL that season.Around the Colts’ complex, though, there are plenty of Brissett believers.Reich noted Brissett has taken more than 1,200 snaps with the starting unit since April when offseason workouts started as Luck tried to recover from a lower left leg injury.Plus, he’s working with a coach who has been down this road previously. Reich spent his first decade in the NFL playing behind a Hall of Famer, needing to be ready at every moment. It’s a conversation the two have had multiple times since Reich was hired 18½ months ago.“From Day 1, I came in and watched all of Jacoby’s film and I said this guy is a top-20 quarterback, this guy is a starting quarterback in the NFL,” Reich said. “This guy is all in, he’s not just checking off boxes. He’s a great leader and I’m excited for him.”So are teammates, who have embraced Brissett’s hard-working approach on the field and his fun-loving style off it.As for Luck, teammates universally backed his decision to walk away two weeks before the Sept. 8 season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers.Some, like Brissett and left tackle Anthony Castonzo, acknowledged Luck let them in on the secret before Saturday’s game. Most, like All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard, said they found out as word trickled out on the sideline.Luck made his formal announcement to the team in the postgame locker room, just moments before going public with the decision.Castonzo understood.“Everybody deals with the pain, it’s when you’re out there and you’re doing something and you feel yourself not being able to change direction or miss a throw in his case,” he said. “It’s when the pain starts to affect your ability on the field is when it really gets to you.”Most were disappointed with the chorus of boos Luck heard from fans as he left the Lucas Oil Stadium turf for the final time.“It sucked,” Brissett said, acknowledging Luck was at peace with the choice. “I mean you don’t want to hear that, especially for a guy like that who’s done what he’s done and what he’s been through.”But it didn’t take the Colts long to move on from Saturday — or the announcement that shocked the football world.“It’s the same old, same old Peyton Manning Jersey ,” Leonard said. “He’s a great player, we respect everything Andrew does. But now we’re focused on Jacoby Brissett and winning games.” Khalil Mack delighted the Oakland Raiders for four seasons by racking up sacks, forced fumbles and other big plays as one of the NFL’s top defenders.Now he gets the chance to torment them 13 months after the Raiders traded their most productive draft pick of this century to Chicago following a lengthy contract holdout.”Vindictiveness. I like that word,” Mack said of his approach to Sunday’s game in London for the Bears (3-1) against Oakland (2-2).”Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that’s the whole point man. You can’t play this game with too much emotion, man. Ultimately, I try to stay focused on the task at hand and understanding the situation and understanding what they’re going to be thinking that I feel. But ultimately, I’m going to go out there and do what I do and that’s play football and love the game that I play. You know what I mean?”The Raiders drafted Mack fifth overall in 2014, a round before taking quarterback Derek Carr. The two became tight and vowed to bring Oakland back to respectability after years of losing.They managed to put together a 12-win season in 2016 when Mack won AP Defensive Player of the Year and Carr was an MVP candidate. But Carr broke his leg in the penultimate game of the regular season and Oakland lost in the wild-card round to Houston.The Raiders stumbled to a 6-10 record the following year and Mack then held out of training camp in the first season under coach Jon Gruden while seeking a long-term contract and ultimately was traded to the Bears for a package that included two first-round picks.”That’s my brother, I love him to death, everyone knows that,” Carr said. “He’s one of my best friends. We’ll be friends when we are all old and hopefully him with kids. I’m trying to nudge him in that direction, but this week it’s different. We are competing against each other.”Carr knows it won’t be easy dealing with Mack, who is a menace as a pass rusher. He has 17 sacks and 10 forced fumbles since joining the Bears last season compared to a Raiders defense that has just 18 sacks and eight forced fumbles from the entire unit.As challenging as the matchup will be, Carr views it as no different than when he faces other great pass rushers such as Denver’s Von Miller.”I’m not going to be dropping back looking at Khalil. I don’t drop back and look at Von, sometimes those guys just make great plays that’s why they are Hall of Fame players,” he said. “You just have to drop back, be on time with your throws and get the ball out, whether it’s down the field, whether it’s intermediate or short, whatever the play dictates.”Here are some other things to watch:FEATURED BACKThe Raiders turned the first pick they got for Mack into running back Josh Jacobs, who is making a big impact as a rookie. Jacobs has rushed for 307 yards and two TDs, added three catches for 57 yards and leads all rookies in yards from scrimmage after four weeks.”I think both teams are winning the trade Al Woods Color Rush Jersey ,” Carr said. “I think if you can get Khalil Mack on your team, you’re winning, and if you can get Josh Jacobs on your team, you’re winning. I think that’s the best way to do it.”CHASE’S CHANCEWith quarterback Mitchell Trubisky unavailable because of a left shoulder injury, Chase Daniel will make his third start in two seasons with Chicago. The 10-year veteran completed 22 of 30 passes for 195 yards and a 10-yard touchdown to Tarik Cohen. Daniel combined to go 53 of 76 with 515 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in two starts last season _ a win at Detroit and loss at the New York Giants.”You know, we played a good game with him last week,” said Allen Robinson, who had seven catches for 77 yards last week. “So I mean he’s a guy we’re familiar with, that we’ve gotten rep before, so it’s not like it’s an unfamiliar face.”MAN IN THE MIDDLEThe Raiders have a big hole in the middle of their defense after middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict was suspended for the rest of the season for a helmet-to-helmet hit last week against Indianapolis’ Jack Doyle. Burfict was brought in for his deep knowledge of coordinator Paul Guenther’s defense and had helped the team cut down on communications breakdowns that were too frequent last year. With Burfict gone, Tahir Whitehead will take over as signal caller.DEPTH ON DEFENSEThe Bears showed last week their defense can work even though they were missing starters Akiem Hicks (knee), Roquan Smith (personal reasons) and Bilal Nichols (broken hand).Chicago held Dalvin Cook to 35 yards after he ran for a league-leading 375 through the first three games and sacked Kirk Cousins six times. Nick Williams and Roy Robertson-Harris combined for 3½ sacks, and linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski had one.LONDON CALLINGThe Raiders have been frequent international travelers in recent years, moving five home games out of the country in the past six seasons. While they split their two contests in Mexico City in 2016 and ’17, London hasn’t been nearly as kind to them. They lost 38-14 to Miami in 2014 and fired coach Dennis Allen right after that. They lost 27-3 to Seattle last season when they spent most of the week back home before arriving two days before the game. This year, Gruden opted to spend the entire week in London.”I learned a valuable lesson that we needed a little more time to get acclimated,” Gruden said. “I’m used to playing home games at home, so I made a mistake and tried to correct it this year. Hopefully it shows on the field.”AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman in Chicago contributed to this report
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