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No Rest For Colts Starters

            Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney

Don’t look for next week’s game against the Houston Texans to be one of the second unit squad for the Indianapolis Colts.  Unlike in previous seasons when they clinched early and rested, players such as quarterback Peyton Manning and wide receiver Reggie Wayne to get their usual workouts in practice this week.  Players such as WR Marvin Harrison and defensive end Robert Mathis, on the other hand, will rest up and try to recover from their injuries.

Last Sunday’s win over the Oakland Raiders ensured the Colts of not only the AFC South division crown, but also the #2 seed in the playoffs and a first-round bye – much like last season.  But team head coach Tony Dungy has apparently learned from his mistake from the previous seasons and isn’t treating these last 2 games as meaningless.  Rewind to about 2 years ago – Indianapolis was 13-0 and had already clicnched the top seed in the AFC when they lost to San Diego in Week 14. 

After that loss, the Colts held out most of their starters, giving them about 4 weeks to rest until the playoffs began.  Those of you who remember that season also remember what the end result was: the Colts were rusty in its divisional-round game and lost to the eventual Super bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.  Dungy said on Monday that his approach to the next 2 games isn’t so much about philosophy as it is about necessity; Dungy also told, “With the home division games, you never want to lose those.  We want to be cautious with the guys we need to be cautious with.  I think we’ll determine who can play and who can’t, and the guys that play, we’ll play it like a regular game.”

The only true incentive for the Colts is to get their core players as healthy as possible.  Harrison has missed 8 straight games with a knee injury, and Dungy would love to have him back before the first playoff game on either January 12 or 13.  According to Dungy, Harrrison’s knee is healed and just needs the conditioning necessary to go out and play for 60 or so plays a game. 

Then you have the other walking wounded: offensive tackle Ryan Diem, who has been out for 4 straight games with a knee injury; tight end Ben Utecht, safety Antoine Bethea and defensive tackle Raheem Brock.  That’s not even counting the 3 players out for the season – DE Dwight Freeney, DT Anthony McFarland and LB Rob Morris.  If you can expect anything from these Colts, you can expect this: it will be business as usual, yet they will rest players who need it (read: injured players) the most. 

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