Chuck Pagano brought up “that play” again Wednesday.
A day after punter Pat McAfee shared an explanation about why the Indianapolis Colts’ trick play backfired against New England Sunday night — about how snapper Griff Whalen had not practiced the play during the week and was uniformed of an added audible — Pagano gave his usual injury update and then broached a sore subject yet again.
“As far as that play goes, I want to speak to it one last time,” he said, before taking questions. “I categorically reject any criticism that has fallen, OK, on any of our players or coaches. Like I said before, and I’ll say it again, I take full responsibility.
“Because of our culture, character of the men in that locker room, our coaches and their commitment to one another, we’ll overcome this. We’ve been through bigger things. We’ve overcome adversity, obstacles, circumstances that are a lot bigger than this. And we’ll overcome this one. Any questions about New Orleans, because that’s where our total focus is right now, is on Sunday and the Saints.”
He repeated that "focus is on New Orleans" statement when asked a couple of related questions.
McAfee’s comments were eventually brought up. The All-Pro specialist had given insight during his usual weekly Tuesday radio appearance on The Bob & Tom Show, saying Whalen was out there for the trick play as a substitute for Clayton Geathers, who had been injured earlier.
So there was no way Whalen could have known that if the act of deception in shifting nine players to the right side didn’t cause New England to substitute, Colt Anderson was to play quarterback and try to draw the Patriots offside, McAfee said. The punter also said the Colts mistakenly positioned themselves off the line of scrimmage, which led to an illegal formation penalty.
Whalen snapped the ball, Anderson was immediately tackled for a 1-yard loss on the fourth-and-3 play late in the third quarter. The Patriots, who led 27-21 at the time, took possession and drove for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown in a 34-27 victory.
Asked about McAfee making comments to exonerate his teammates, Pagano said, “I don’t pay any attention to any of the outside noise, so I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about. Our focus is on New Orleans and Sunday.”
McAfee was not in the locker room during Wednesday’s media availability, but one player confirmed the Colts talked to the punter about his comments.
Pagano was asked later how he deals with all of the pressure that has accumulated during the season, which began with speculation about a rift between him and general manager Ryan Grigson and continued with talk about the coach possibly not being re-signed after this season to now, when an embarrassing mistake played out in primetime on national TV and became all of the talk on national sports shows on Monday.
“It’s a game,” Pagano said. “It’s a privilege to play and coach this game. It’s a game. There’s some real-life stuff that really, really matters.”
A leukemia survivor in 2012, Pagano has routinely visited with stricken patients and often speaks about how the NFL isn’t the same as life-or-death struggles that people face every day.
“And so, they can’t eat ya,” he said of critics. “That’s my motto. They can’t eat ya.
“So go higher, and be thankful. Remember when I said I’m grateful for today. When I get tomorrow, I’m going to do the best I can tomorrow. I’m going to take it one day at a time.”
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