LaRon Landry will come off bench

On the first day back from a bye weekend off, head coach Chuck Pagano said 2012 Pro Bowl safety LaRon Landry will play but not start Sunday night against New England.

Batteries have been re-charged, so to speak, although the Indianapolis Colts returning to work Monday after a bye weekend doesn’t mean safety LaRon Landry will be returning to the starting lineup.

Head coach Chuck Pagano said Landry would play but not start when the New England Patriots (7-2) visited the Colts (6-3) on Sunday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The decision is the strongest indication yet that Landry is not in good standing with the team. The 2012 Pro Bowl defender returned from a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances before the New York Giants game on Nov. 3, but the Colts didn’t activate him.

At the time, Pagano had expressed concern about Landry being in “football shape” after a one-month layoff.

One week later, after everybody has had a chance to rest, Pagano said Landry coming off the bench was still a matter of shaking off rust but also because his replacement, Sergio Brown, has played well.

“Just sitting down and talking with him, (we) just want him to be the best LaRon Landry that he can be moving forward,” Pagano said. “So we’ll get him back in the mix and see where we go from there.”

Brown sounded like he was unaware he would be starting this week.

“I really don’t even know what’s going on, to tell you the truth,” Brown said. “Whatever happens, happens.”

It’s fair to say Landry hasn’t been what the Colts expected when they made a four-year, $24-million investment before the 2013 season. He’s been hurt, missed key tackles (some will never forget letting LeGarrette Blount score in January’s playoff loss at New England), and his continual avoidance of reporters fuels a popular contention that he’s a loner in the locker room and not a team guy.

Landry, who has declined his share of interviews this season, is expected to speak with reporters later this week.

The eighth-year pro has 23 tackles in four starts this season. He had 87 stops last season, just 13 shy of his Pro Bowl year with the New York Jets. At 6-0 and 226 pounds, he’s as physical a safety as there is in the NFL, an ideal extra defender to help stop the run. But Landry hasn’t been consistent, and the quicker Brown is thought to be better in pass coverage.

In another area of the locker room, offensive guard Hugh Thornton politely declined to discuss being benched for the Colts’ 40-24 victory over the Giants. Pagano has said it was a disciplinary move, but would not divulge Thornton’s mistake.

It’s unknown if Thornton, a third-round pick in 2013, will return as a starter at right guard. His replacement, Lance Louis, struggled at times.

The other uncertainty is about the Colts’ injured players. Outside linebacker Erik Walden (hip flexor) hopes to return to the practice field this week. He and defensive tackle Arthur Jones (high ankle sprain) worked with trainers on Monday.

While many players were able to get away and enjoy the time off, coaches still sent out study material on the team’s iPads, in case guys wanted to look ahead to the Patriots, who are also coming off a bye week and have the AFC’s best record.

“I sort of took time off,” quarterback Andrew Luck said, “watched some football, but back to work now.”

Pagano joked around a bit when asked if all of his players were present and accounted for after the bye week.

“I didn’t see anything come up on PFT (Pro Football Talk),” the coach said. “I don’t do Twitter and Facebook and all that other stuff. I don’t know if you guys saw anything, but I know everybody was in the building on time today. We spent a lot of time praying and lighting candles and doing a lot of things.

“But we’ve got good guys and we remind them (about dangers), like everybody else. Everybody is scared to death, you know? These guys understand that we’ve got a heck of an opportunity in front of us and we don’t need any distractions.”

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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