A couple of weeks ago, the Indianapolis Colts weren’t only marching toward a Super Bowl title, they were headed into history.
But their undefeated season was brought to an abrupt stop, in Indianapolis, and then coach Tony Dungy’s son died of an apparent suicide.
The Colts, treating last week’s game in Seattle like it was the preseason — and with the death of James Dungy hanging over their heads — lost again.
Dungy remains absent from the Colts. Interim coach Jim Caldwell reiterated Wednesday that the team will treat Sunday’s meeting in Indianapolis against the Cardinals like a preseason game.
Suddenly, it seems fair to wonder if the Colts are a different team than the one rolling along through mid-December.
"I feel we were just having adverse times," defensive tackle Montae Reagor said during a conference call. "I think the leaders are doing a great job of keeping everyone focused. We realize what the ultimate goal is. We’re 13-2 but we still have the same goals, the same focus, haven’t lost any confidence at all."
Almost the entire Colts organization traveled to Tampa, Fla., for Tuesday’s funeral. The trip, Caldwell said, provided some healing for a team that hadn’t seen Dungy since his son’s death.
"I think the spirits seem to be lifted somewhat," Caldwell said.
Still, Caldwell said that despite Dungy’s absence, practices have been "brisk and attentive" and that the team is only following Dungy’s stoic lead.
Cardinals coach Dennis Green, who was in Tampa for the Dungy services Monday and Tuesday, said he thought the Colts would overcome their issues heading into the playoffs.
"You have to adapt to difficult times," Green said. "They have the ability to do that."
Nothing will be learned in the game against the Cards. Nine starters missed practice for the Colts Wednesday and Colts general manager Bill Polian said Monday that seven starters — defensive linemen Reagor, Corey Simon and Robert Mathis, tackle Ryan Diem, safety Bob Sanders, linebacker Cato June and receiver Marvin Harrison — definitely will not play. Defensive end Dwight Freeney and receiver Brandon Stokley also may sit.
With all the issues swirling around the team, quarterback Peyton Manning and Freeney both declined to take part in a conference call with Arizona media. But Reagor said there is no concern that the Colts may have a three-game losing streak heading into the postseason.
"We know what we’re capable of doing when everybody is full tilt and when everybody is playing," Reagor said. "We’re not worried at all."
Left tackle Leonard "Big" Davis missed practice Wednesday with his bruised knee, and Green said it was unlikely that Davis will be upgraded from his current questionable injury status. Given that Oliver Ross is already preparing to play in Davis’ left tackle spot and Fred Wakefield is doing the same at right tackle, chances are good that Davis will spend the season finale on the sideline for a second straight season.
"At least we get a week (to practice)," said Ross, who was thrown in at left tackle against Philadelphia last week when Davis got hurt.
Ross said he is beginning to feel more comfortable on the left side. Wakefield, who had started the previous four games at guard before replacing Ross against the Eagles, said he was always more comfortable at tackle than guard.
Cornerback Antrel Rolle (knee) won’t play Sunday. Receiver LeRon McCoy (ankle) sat out practice Wednesday and is listed as questionable. Receiver Anquan Boldin practiced and should be fine to play. . . .
The increase in season tickets thanks to fans wanting priority seating in the new stadium helped attendance this season. The Cardinals averaged 42,510 tickets distributed in seven games at Sun Devil Stadium, compared with a 37,533 average in eight games in 2004. Adding in this season’s "home" game in Mexico City — in which 103,467 tickets were distributed — and the 2005 average jumped to 50,129.