Mention DeflateGate in the Indianapolis Colts’ locker room these days and it’s not a reminder of an offseason controversy about under-inflated footballs.
It’s asking Colts players to remember a nightmare.
A new NFL season couldn’t arrive soon enough for the guys who endured that 45-7 loss to the New England Patriots in January’s AFC Championship Game at Foxborough, Mass.
They understand it’s a popular media topic with the Patriots (4-0) visiting the Colts (3-2) Sunday night at Lucas Oil Stadium. But, understandably, Colts players don’t like talking about it.
“I think the players in this locker room in particular got caught up in it less than anybody because it was a reminder of us getting embarrassed on national TV in the AFC Championship Game,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said Wednesday.
“They took it to us in that game and played great and we played terrible. I would say in this locker room, every time that game gets brought up, we really don’t want to think about it or talk about it.”
Some form of the word “embarrassment” is mentioned repeatedly. It’s a humbling reality they’re forced to accept. It’s not the kind of ugly outcome that can be forgotten.
“Yeah, it certainly was an embarrassing defeat,” quarterback Andrew Luck said. “You don’t want to be associated with those types of losses.”
The media debates how much more emphasis the teams might place on this rematch, considering DeflateGate’s shelf life lingering through the offseason. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was suspended four games, but that punishment was then rescinded. An appeal is scheduled to be heard after the season, so DeflateGate has not yet ended in terms of a final resolution.
Will the Patriots be looking for payback for the Colts reporting them to the NFL? That’s been widely speculated by New England media, but Colts head coach Chuck Pagano dismissed it as scuttlebutt.
“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” the coach said. “I haven’t heard that stuff. If you could give me some names of guys that have said that, then we could have a discussion about it. We’re preparing for a football game just like they are. It’s going to be a great challenge, a great football team coming in here.”
Doesn’t he think there’s anything more to this game?
“It’s Week 6 of the National Football League,” Pagano said.
The Colts are looking ahead, not at the past.
“We’re not talking about that,” safety Mike Adams said. “We’ve moving on. We’re talking about this game.”
The suggestion that the Colts have added motivation to exact revenge also falls on deaf ears.
“We all have our own motivation, but in my mind, sure, you don’t want to be associated with a loss like that in the past,” Luck said, “but I don’t know if it has much bearing on this one.”
The Patriots are eight-point road favorites. They’ve won four previous meetings by an average of 29 points, including twice in the playoffs.
The Colts realize they’re facing the defending Super Bowl champions and the Patriots might be even stronger than a year ago. That’s enough of a challenge for the Colts without bringing DeflateGate into it.
Asked if he’s spoken to Patriots coach Bill Belichick since January’s debacle, Pagano said, “No, I don’t have his number. No pun intended.”
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.