How much will Colts' starters play Saturday?

If the Colts have a similar play count as last August, Andrew Luck will play one quarter and maybe a few plays in the second.

There’s a plan for preseason playing time, but Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano prefers not to share specifics.

After his starters saw limited action in a 36-10 Sunday loss at the Philadelphia Eagles in the Colts’ exhibition opener, Pagano was asked if having two days of joint practices with the Chicago Bears could influence how long his regulars play when the two teams meet at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night.

Pagano said Thursday the workouts with the Bears wouldn’t have any bearing on how much quarterback Andrew Luck and other starters would play. Luck was in the Eagles game for just 11 snaps.

“Guys will play more,” he said, in summation.

How much more?

At least the first quarter, and possibly a few plays into the second quarter.

That’s based on last season’s second preseason game, when Luck and the starters finished a scoring drive that continued into the second quarter. The offense had a pair of three-and-outs, so it played four series but was productive with one touchdown and two field goals.

Pagano doesn’t need to share the specifics of his plan because the widely accepted pattern for preseason play is common knowledge around the NFL.

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Teams typically play their starters only one or two series in the opener, which the Colts stuck to, although it meant replacing Luck with backup Matt Hasselbeck during the second series against the Eagles.

The second preseason game usually means starters will get two to three series or the first quarter, depending upon the situation. If, for example, the offense goes three-and-out on back-to-back possessions, Pagano probably sends Luck and his crew back out there for a third or even fourth series, as was the case a year ago. But if Luck drives the Colts to back-to-back touchdown drives that eat up clock and require 20 plays, the coach could change his mind and decide he’s seen enough.

NFL teams are expected to play their regulars for at least one half of the third preseason game, then at least one series into the third quarter. The Colts are at the St. Louis Rams on Aug. 29 for their third preseason game.

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The preseason finale is devoted to the bottom half of the roster. Don’t expect many, if any, starters to play against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 3 at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“We have an idea other than if someone gets nicked up and they can’t go or they’re limited from an injury standpoint,” Pagano said. “We just have to plan going into Week 2 in the preseason what you want to try to get done.”

Running back Frank Gore hasn’t played much in preseason in recent years with the San Francisco 49ers and that trend appears to be continuing with the Colts. He didn’t have a carry in the opener and Pagano made it sound like he wouldn’t be concerned if his No. 1 running back didn’t play much if at all in the exhibitions.

“We’re just going to play that by ear and take it one day at a time,” Pagano said. “I don’t have any problem (and) he doesn’t have any problem with doing that.”

But then Pagano put on his poker face and left open the door on Gore.

“Maybe there’s a good chance you’ll see him out there this weekend,” the coach said.

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


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