INTERIM HEAD COACH BRUCE ARIANS
(on if preparing for the game feels like the old rivalry between the Colts and Titans)
Oh, there’s no doubt. I have been a part of it before, and of course, been down to Nashville so many times in big games. Yeah, it does, to have both of us in a division ball game and both heading in the right direction. I think our guys, especially our veteran players, are schooling our younger players on what it means to go down there.
(on the development of Andrew Luck and where he is ahead of the process and where he needs to improve)
I think nothing surprises me with him anymore. He’s light years ahead of where we thought he would be. There’s nothing really left to put in the playbook that we haven’t installed, and he’s been extremely good in clutch situations. His improvement areas (would be) deep balls. We need to hit some more chunk plays when we have our shots, and that’s more timing with our receivers than it is anything. We’ve underthrown or overthrown a couple of balls that should have been touchdowns in the first few games, but overall, I’m really pleased with where he’s at, his competitiveness, his spirit, his grit, leadership. Those are things you hope you have in a quarterback, and he’s got them all.
(on how much no-huddle offense Andrew Luck has run)
He’s been outstanding, and we’ve done a bunch. There’s the two-minute, no-huddle where you are in fast-break mode, which he’s been outstanding and should have won three ball games in the fourth quarter but before the half and at the end of the game, he’s been great. We’ve also been in a lightning trigger no-huddle that he’s handled beautifully at home, just a little bit on the road, not much because of the communication problems, but overall, he’s handled that phase much faster than the rest of the rookies we have. I have to watch that he and I don’t go too fast for the other four or five rookies that we’ve got starting.
(on if Luck deserves the bulk of the credit or what other changes have helped the Colts surpass their 2011 win total)
I think it’s collective. It starts with the general manager getting a major changeover of our roster, and (head coach) Chuck (Pagano) laid the foundation—put in the foundation of winning, family, football, trust, everything that he preaches, and we’re starting to get healthy. Our defense played better last week, and our offense has been sputtering and playing really good at times and inconsistent. I think just the fact that we’re all learning each other and we have a great, veteran leadership that knows what it takes and wants to get back to the playoffs and right now, we’re just like all the rest of the 3-3 teams. We’re going to go one direction or the other, and why not up?
(on the biggest personnel changes from last year besides Andrew Luck)
Well, we start five rookies on offense, and I think the only old face left from last year, if Donald Brown plays, would be Donald Brown and Anthony Castonzo. Jeff Linkenbach is now playing left guard. The center is new, the right guard is new, the right tackle is new, both tight ends are new, the two backup receivers are new, the running back and quarterback are new. Offensively, everybody. Defensively, a lot of the same faces, but we have switched styles of defense to a pressure 3-4 defense. We have Cory Redding and Tom Zbikowski from Baltimore. Robert (Mathis) and Dwight (Freeney) haven’t had a chance to play much together because of injuries, and hopefully we’ll have them both out there again.
(on how much he’s missed having Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis in at the same time to cause confusion and add pressure)
It’s huge. You take the two premier players out and leave half of one, it’s obviously not going to be the same. But more than anything, their leadership and playmaking ability in crunch time. Then you throw in Cory Redding, who is a vocal leader, was out last week. Having those guys back would be huge. Pat Angerer, another one, who finally got back on the field who was a leading tackler last year. We’re getting guys backs, and we don’t have them all back yet, but we just need to scratch out one more this week and get some more guys healthy.
(on Tom Zbikowski and Vontae Davis’ play against Cleveland)
Yes, they did. Tom (Zbikowski) made some huge plays in the fourth quarter, especially on third down. Vontae (Davis) was outstanding, especially after coming back from his injury. Jerraud Powers played solid, he had a tough duty. We loaded it up, and he was back there one-on-one. That’s the life of a corner. I was really pleased with our whole defensive effort, especially in the fourth quarter.
(on Donnie Avery’s play)
Every week he gets better, just watching his confidence grow. He has a major role in this offense, and he gives us that speed. He’s back to full speed. We just have missed him a number of times when he’s wide open down the field, and we have to start hitting him. He gives us a great deep threat, and just been a pleasure to coach. He’s been consistent, and a really good performer for us.
(on if Donnie Avery’s speed is back to where it was before the injury)
Yeah, I don’t think there is any doubt. He’s in the low 4.3’s, 4.2 something, he can fly.
(on if he sees the
I don’t think there is any doubt. He had his opportunities, and you’re only as good as your opportunities present themselves. He made the best of them. He’s always been dangerous. To me, he’s more dangerous on a check-down than he is on a stretch play. You have to account for him all the time. When you break out onto the scene like he did, then you have a bullseye on your back and everybody is going to take you out of the game. As soon as you talk defense, you’re talking about the number one focus is to stop (Chris Johnson) and then go after Matt (Hasselbeck). That target is going to be on his back, and it’s really tough to shed when you have everyone hunting you up. He looks like he’s still in great form.
(on if the Titans are doing a better job of helping him get to those holes)
Yeah, they look like they’re getting more cohesive. They’re young like us, and it’s just learning to play together. They put a nice game together (against Buffalo) to get two turnovers on the road and not turn the ball over, you’re going to win a lot of games.
(on the Colts’ struggles on the road this season)
It’s huge for us. That’s the next thing as far as confidence in the entire group, is to win one on the road and to get on the plus side of the ledger. Nothing could be better for us right now then to win on the road.
(on if Anthony Castonzo has taken on a leadership role with the offensive line)
Definitely, he has. Samson Satele, he’s more of the veteran, and Mike McGlynn, are the vocal guys. But (Anthony Castonzo), he does it by play, and he’ll jump in there and give it everything he’s got when he needs to. He was captain last week, and did a heck of a job for us. I’m really pleased with where he’s at.
(on if he’s used the tight ends like he planned to)
They’ve done everything we’ve asked of them, and they’re learning how to play at this level. They can’t be Heath Miller today. They have to be themselves, and us finding out what they do best, and them growing as a football player, you keep expanding their role each week. Then we also have T.Y. Hilton, who is a dynamic young rookie that we like to have in the game, so they’re not getting too many snaps. But I’m really pleased with where they both are.
(on if he’s settling in with his new responsibilities)
The first week was obviously crazy and traumatic for everybody. Now we’ve got a routine that we’re all comfortable with, and it’s a lot easier right now. Having Chuck (Pagano) out of the hospital and home, as long as we can keep that count up, that’s the main thing too.
(on if he’s talking with Chuck Pagano on a regular basis)
Every day by text or by phone, and I usually see him on Fridays. He’s doing well, and we’re really happy about that.
(on how difficult the extra time has been)
Eight to five, I’m still the offensive coordinator for (Andrew Luck). Then I take extra hours out of the day to do whatever I need to do as a head coach, rob Peter and pay Paul as far as roster changes and everything. (General Manager) Ryan Grigson does a great job with it. Formulate your plan of attack for the week on how you want to present it to the players, that part of it, you just put the extra time in to get it done.
(on how much sleep he’s getting now compared to a couple of weeks ago)
Not quite as much. As long as you win, you sleep better.
(on Vick Ballard’s play against the Browns)
Getting two words out of Vick (Ballard) is hard. He’s not a big talker. But I really am pleased with where he’s at, another rookie that jumped in when his number was called. He made a great run there at the end of the game, and he learned a big thing about staying inbounds when you’re in five-minute offense. I was real pleased that he made the run, and we’ll teach him to stay inbounds. You can’t teach some guys to break those tackles. I’m pleased with where he’s at, and he’s doing a good job with his pass protection also. The sky is the limit. I think this kid has got a great future.
(on if Vick Ballard and Delone Carter set the bar for what he can expect out of the run game)
I don’t think there is any doubt. One thing about Donald Brown was having an outstanding year and had a great game before he got injured against Green Bay. That’s really when the running game took off. We miss his speed. He has a dynamic speed like a (Chris Johnson). We’re anxious to get him back, and then we’ll have a healthy set of backs. It’s a nice problem to have with who you want to hand it to.
(on if Donald Brown may play against the Titans)
He’s going to practice some this week, so we’re waiting to see.
(on comparing Andrew Luck in his early stages to Peyton Manning)
We’re asking Andrew (Luck) to do a whole lot more than we did with Peyton (Manning). Peyton we gave two or three plays in the huddle, he was great at that phase of it, a lot of check-with-me’s, but we didn’t do the no-huddle until his second year. He was great as a two-minute rookie, because coming out of college, those guys play in that shotgun and spread offense pretty good, and that’s usually what you do in two-minute, so it’s natural for him and the field gets a little cleaner. I think he’s a step ahead only because of what we’re asking him to do, and he’s doing it with a bunch of rookies, whereas Peyton had some really good players on that team.
(on how much impact Reggie Wayne has had on the young receivers and Andrew Luck)
You really can’t put a value on it, it’s tremendous. The fact that when he showed up for OTA’s, he grabbed them all. He’s been the pied piper. He whistles, they follow, stir everywhere. They’re down in Florida working out all summer, they’re here. He’s teaching them, not only how you do it on the field, but how you do off the field, how you do it in meetings and classrooms and what you do in public. He’s doing a great job with his leadership role, and that’s why he’s one of our captains every week.