When several players start saying the same thing in the Indianapolis Colts locker room, it means they got the catch phrase from someone important.
As Colts players were asked about Sunday’s 27-0 shutout of Cincinnati Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, the word “special” kept coming up in conversation. As in, “We’ve got a chance to do something special” and “This is a special team.”
The first hunch is that head coach Chuck Pagano used the “special” word when addressing the team after its first shutout since 2008. But in this case, it was someone else.
Owner Jim Irsay.
Yeah, in his first game back from a six-game suspension, Irsay addressed the Colts after the win. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw mentioned the chat, and how the owner shared his “special” belief in this team.
Pagano also said as much when he met with reporters.
“Looks like that monster is starting to rear its head a little bit,” said the third-year coach, who from the beginning sold the mantra “Build The Monster” on T-shirts the players wore. Everybody, these days, knows what the acronym “BTM” means.
Confidence, understandably, has never been higher after the Bengals beatdown. The Colts have won five in a row, the defense is playing off the charts, and the offense is piling up points and yards despite a turnover now and then.
“We just have to stay humble,” Pagano added, “keep working and get better.”
The feel-good vibe has become so prevalent, I had to wait a long time to get a word with one of my go-to guys, defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois, who was surrounded by reporters upon my arrival in the locker room.
When I tried a second time, Jean Francois was still quite popular. Still dressed in his game pants, he was fielding questions from another round of reporters. It took a third visit later to get the desired one-on-one.
I’ve interviewed him a lot the past couple of years because he’s got personality and speaks his mind. We laughed about him holding court. The media throng even surprised him.
Many suggested general manager Ryan Grigson overpaid to sign Jean Francois, a backup in San Francisco, to a four-year, $22-million deal in 2013. But he’s been playing well this season. On Sunday, he had three tackles and one sack. For the season, he’s at 15 tackles, two sacks and three passes defensed. He’s already close to his 2013 season numbers of 19 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
“Yeah, I’m feeling great,” he said.
But I know Ricky pretty well. He’s a grounded kind of guy who doesn’t let the attention change his perspective. So the line of questioning was like lobbing softballs to a Home Run Derby champion.
“That’s one thing, don’t get caught up in your results,” he said. “Great, we won. We pitched a shutout against the Cincinnati Bengals. But come Monday, you’ve got realize on the iPad, your’e going to have the Pittsburgh Steelers (to study).”
That’s the next game, on the road, Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field.
The obvious angle is how do the Colts stay focused? How do they put aside such a dominant performance against a winning team and realize it’s still only one game and the Colts haven’t accomplished anything just yet.
“Because there’s 17 weeks in a regular season,” Jean Francois said, laughing. “You can’t say, ‘Alright, we did this,’ then mess around and lose the rest of ‘em because we paid attention to one.”
He laughed even longer when I brought up the reporters’ line of questioning after an 0-2 start. And how he and I could enjoy one-on-one chats every week with nobody else in line.
“That’s what I was laughing about,” he said of my early inability to get a question asked.
Now the media and fans are saying again that there’s a “D” in Indy, a headline question I asked on ColtsBlitz.com during the preseason, then got slammed by the public after the Colts couldn’t stop New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees in the first quarter of the next game.
“We’ll let the fans have fun with it,” Jean Francois said of the hoopla. “And all the people who probably didn’t pick us in this game.”
The bright lights from cameras were rather bright the first couple media scrums, he admitted. But eventually it was just the two of us, and it was the same, old Ricky.
If the Colts are going to be special, as Pagano said and Jean Francois bluntly reminded, the guys are going to have to stay humble.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.