After 16 years and a few more games than that covering the NFL, it helps to have a nose for deciphering hidden meaning behind the interview insights shared by coaches and players.
It’s common practice for one opinion to be expressed, but in today’s world of social media and reaction within seconds, fans are smarter about what’s really being said.
To that end, I offer a few observations on Indianapolis Colts words from Wednesday, and what they really mean. And in the words of comedian Dennis Miller, I invoke the catch phrase, “Of course that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.”
What that really means: While divulging Shipley would start a fourth consecutive game, the brevity is an indication that Pagano didn’t wish to say anymore than necessary.
Statement: Pagano knew someone else would follow up on this, considering the Colts gave most of the first-team snaps to second-year pro Khaled Holmes last week, but decided to go with Shipley at Jacksonville and said he wanted to be 100 percent sure about Holmes’ recovery from a high ankle sprain. When asked the follow-up question about how tough the situation is on Holmes, who started training camp as the starter, Pagano said, “We’ll just keep looking at it week to week. The health of who we have available matters, the way guys are playing matters, so we take it all into account and then we make a decision what gives us the best chance to win and what’s the best lineup for the team for that week.”
What that really means: Shipley is playing better than Holmes, be it because of Holmes’ injury or perhaps not. As long as Shipley is playing better, he starts.
Statement: Tight end Dwayne Allen was asked about the team’s power run game, in which he said it was the Colts’ offensive identity, but then was posed the question about how pass catchers are still getting their receptions. He said, “Whenever we have a servant mentality, when we’re willing to serve each other, ‘Everyone at the end is going to eat,’ as (Pagano) likes to say.”
What that really means: Allen is humble and not concerned with how many catches he gets. It’s a great attitude on a team with so many weapons. And in the end, the second-year pro is confident pass catchers are going to get their share of touches.
Statement: Running back Ahmad Bradshaw was asked how he his body felt in his return from neck surgery. He said, “I feel great. I feel 100 percent, and when I’m out there on Sunday, I feel 120 percent.”
What that really means: Nobody is more excited to be playing than Bradshaw, and it shows in his production. He leads the team with three TD receptions and a 6-yard-per-carry rushing average.
Statement: Pagano was asked if second-year outside linebacker Bjoern Werner is pressing to prove himself, especially since the pass rusher doesn’t have a sack yet this season. The coach said, “I think he’s just playing. He’s year two and he’s way better this year than he was last year and he’ll be way better this Sunday than he was last Sunday.
What that really means: Pagano will have hope in Werner until or unless time proves otherwise. The team is too invested in the 2013 first-round pick to be pessimistic, as many of us are, just three games into the season. And even if coach has his doubts, he won’t share them.
Statement: Quarterback Andrew Luck was asked about his old Stanford teammate, tight end Coby Fleener, who has had his share of drops including two at Jacksonville, one for a touchdown. Luck said, “You just pat him on the head and keep going. He’s obviously a very good football player. It’s not in his nature to drop balls. There’s not much to say. He has a great attitude and always goes out there and will do better the next time.”
What that really means: Luck must trust every pass catcher, there’s not enough time in split-second decisions to think, “I can’t throw it to that guy.” But the fact that the quarterback gave Fleener a “will do better next time” vote of confidence shows that he sees what everyone else does, that the tight end has dropped his share of passes.
Statement: Luck was advised he’s No. 1 in fantasy football player rankings, something he smiled and seemed amused about. He said, “Well, as long as we get more Colts fans, that’s great. The more, the merrier. So if they’re supporting the Colts, that’s good. I’ve always thought it’s a little funny in fantasy football when you support a player on a team. That doesn’t quite make sense to me considering the team aspect of football. But if they’re Colts fans, that’s all good with me, yeah.”
What that really means: Luck isn’t a fan of fantasy football, but appreciates any owner who has faith in him and the team.
Statement: Shipley was asked about how the Colts’ O-line has taken heat for a lack of protecting Luck in the past. He said, “The big thing is keeping him upright. That’s the biggest thing. Everybody knows he’s the face of this franchise. He’s what makes this thing go. Our job is to do everything we can regardless of what the scenario may be to keep him upright. That’s kind of been our approach since day one, at least since I’ve gotten here. I’m sure it was before I got here. We only go as far as he goes.
What that really means: A.Q. Shipley gets it.
Statement: Pagano was asked on his conference call with Tennessee media about wide receiver T.Y. Hilton’s ankle injury. He gave a short answer, similar to what he told Indianapolis media, “He’s going to be fine.”
What that really means: Expect Hilton to play Sunday.