Colts not wasting breath on thin air

Cory Redding shrugs off playing in Denver altitude. Coach Chuck Pagano grew up there and is confident team will adjust.

Cory Redding shook his head and smiled when asked if Denver’s mile-high altitude could impact Sunday’s AFC Divisional playoff game.

“No. No,” the 12th-year Indianapolis Colts defensive end said Wednesday. “I played there in college, we played the Buffaloes back in Boulder (Colorado). I’ve played in Denver multiple times. It’s all in your head. It’s a bunch of stuff.”

The fourth-seeded Colts (12-5) face the second-seeded Denver Broncos (12-4) at 4:40 p.m. Sunday. They visitors have been to Sports Authority Field at Mile High once before this season, losing 31-24 to the Broncos in the season opener.

Perhaps more importantly, Colts head coach Chuck Pagano grew up in Colorado. He knows all about the importance of an athlete getting acclimated to the less-oxygenated air.

“You know, growing up out there and going to school at the University of Wyoming, one of the finest academic institutions in the United States, in our stadium it said, ‘Welcome to 7220,’” Pagano said. “Of course we know Mile High is I think 5280, 5,280 feet, if I’m correct. I remember that as a kid, one of the first things you had to know growing up in Colorado. I remember teams coming in to play us, California and Hawaii came over once every four years and in warm-ups they were struggling because of that.

“Having said all that, our guys adapted pretty quickly in the first quarter of the first ball game out there. There’s a little bit of an acclimation period to it but I think leading up to the game, everything that we did starting on Monday all the way through Sunday until kickoff, there’s things that you can do. I can’t simulate the altitude. I tried. I asked Troy (Glendenning), who’s unbelievable, gives us crowd noise, but he couldn’t do anything about the altitude. Hydration, nutrition, sleep, all those things. You’ve got to go play. You’ve got oxygen on the sideline. If you need oxygen, get some oxygen.”

Pagano said the team considered going to Denver early, as other NFL teams have done, but decided sticking to a normal weekly routine was more beneficial.

“At the end of the day,” he said, “they ain’t going to be thinking about that, not in this game.”

NFL players have noticed in the past that they’re short of breath during warm-ups. But once their bodies adjust, they’re good to go.

“The Mile High altitude hurts you at the beginning of the game," Kansas City Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Johnson told KCChiefs.com last season. "You can't catch your breath; there's always a time, where during warm-ups, you're breathing hard, but eventually you get your second wind and it's not a big problem.”

The impact is undeniable for kickers and punters, who can add as much as five to 10 yards of length to their efforts.

The Colts are 3-7 at Denver, but won there in 2010 and 2007 before losing on Sept. 7.

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


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