Colts' Matt Hasselbeck ready to step in and hold the fort

The 40-year-old backup quarterback realizes it's on him to keep his 4-5 team going while injured starter Andrew Luck is on the mend.

Matt Hasselbeck’s plan is as obvious as it is simple: keep the Indianapolis Colts in contention until Andrew Luck returns.

The Colts’ bye week began the team’s transition at quarterback due to Luck suffering a lacerated kidney and partial tear of an abdominal muscle in a 27-24 home win over Denver eight days ago.

So the 4-5 Colts turn to their $3 million insurance policy, the 40-year-old Hasselbeck, who led the team to wins in Weeks 4-5 while Luck was inactive. This time is different, because Luck will miss anywhere from two to six weeks, and Hasselbeck knows he’s starting whereas Luck’s playing status was unknown before.

The first change for Hasselbeck was his bye week. He suggested his intent to do some TV color commentary work as a NFL football analyst, but head coach Chuck Pagano shot that down. Hasselbeck helped call an NFL game for Fox last season.

“Maybe, maybe,” the 17th-year pro said with a smile about if he had to switch his bye week plans. “Yeah, I did. … My kids are in school. My kids are older, so I don’t have the freedom that all these other guys in the locker room have. They were gone as soon as possible. Pat McAfee was tweeting photos with palm trees and stuff. I was driving my kids to school in the rain.

“There was a strong chance I was calling a game again this year. I ran it by Chuck, and I just heard silence at the other end of the phone, so I decided just to audible and do something else.”

Hasselbeck recalled getting a phone call Tuesday to inform of the team announcing Luck’s injury. He was unaware of the three-time Pro Bowl passer’s situation. He had a missed call from Luck on his cell phone.

“I screened the call, basically,” he said with a smile. “No, I’m kidding. He didn’t leave a voicemail, so I didn’t know.”

He was on the phone when the news broke. Then his phone started buzzing with continual texts from teammates.

While it’s an opportunity for Hasselbeck to again prove he can lead a playoff contender, he’s done that throughout his career, so his initial reaction had him thinking more about Luck.

“I was disappointed for Andrew,” he said. “I know how hard he works. I know how hard he’s worked this offseason. I know it’s a physical game, and it’s a physical position. You’re always dealing with injuries. I really thought that he took a big hit in that game. I get the same answer when I ask him how he’s doing as you do. I didn’t actually know. I just know that he’s one of the tougher guys you’ve ever been around. I had no idea it was that bad.”

While players rested during the bye week, Colts offensive coaches tinkered with the playbook. The win over the previously unbeaten Broncos came just five days after offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton was fired and replaced with associate head coach Rob Chudzinski.

How much the playbook will be altered with Hasselbeck is of obvious interest, especially to the Atlanta Falcons (6-3), who host the Colts on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

Hasselbeck has been doing this long enough to understand he won’t deviate much from his routine, except perhaps speaking up more in meetings and obviously getting the first-team snaps in practice.

He did admit one thing he’ll avoid: chicken burritos. Hasselbeck got sick after consuming the Mexican food and needed to take a trip to the hospital three days before leading the Colts to a Thursday night win in Week 4.

“It’s going to be a little while until the trust is built back with that establishment,” he said of the restaurant. “One of my favorites, but it will be a little bit.”

One thing he did ask was for Luck to be involved in preparation and helping him, which the three-time Pro Bowl passer did in great detail during Hasselbeck’s previous two victories.

“I pleaded with him, sort of begged him, ‘Hey, even though you’re hurt and not with us, I need you to be with us,’” Hasselbeck said of his conversation with Luck. “He said, ‘Absolutely.’ I just wanted to get him on record.”

During the bye week, the Colts added 10-year veteran Charlie Whitehurst as Hasselbeck’s backup. The Titans released Whitehurst and the Colts claimed him a day later.

“Charlie was brought in when I was in Seattle,” Hasselbeck said. “Very handsome guy, good looking, very stylish. A lot of fun in the quarterback room, good player and everyone likes him. I wasn’t sure how that was going to shake out. I knew they were probably going to bring somebody in. It was fortunate for us Tennessee let him go, and we were able to get him.”

Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.


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