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Colts quarterback Matt Hasselbeck expected to play Sunday

Andrew Luck's backup suffered from a stiff neck and slight rib separation after Sunday's 45-10 loss to Pittsburgh. Head coach Chuck Pagano advises quarterback should be OK to start at Jacksonville.

A day after his team's worst loss of the season, Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said the early expectation is for quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to play in Sunday’s road game at the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The 17th-year pro suffered from a stiff neck and mild rib separation, Pagano said Monday, but the coach was told by doctors that his 40-year-old quarterback should be able to practice on Wednesday.

Asked later if he expected Hasselbeck to be able to play Sunday, the coach said, “Yeah.”

Hasselbeck is 4-1 filling in for Andrew Luck, who has been out a month with a lacerated kidney and partially torn abdominal muscle and isn’t expected back for at least another week or two.

The Colts (6-6) are tied with the Houston Texans atop the AFC South Division, but were in regroup mode after being embarrassed 45-10 at Pittsburgh Sunday night.

“Again, it’s early still,” Pagano said. “All I know is I haven’t seen Matt. He was at the doc. He was in a scanner when we met. I haven’t had a conversation with him to this point. Again, it is what it is. When they tell me they pretty much feel like he’ll be on the practice field and be ready to go on Wednesday. If we have to monitor and limit some reps here and there, certainly we’ll do that. (I’m) fairly confident that he should be alright.”

Hasselbeck, like the rest of his team, had a rough game against the Steelers. He had been efficient and took care of the ball with seven touchdown passes and just two interceptions in four previous triumphant starts, but had two interceptions and a lost fumble at Pittsburgh.

When Hasselbeck exited in the final quarter of a game long since decided, the Colts inserted journeyman Charlie Whitehurst. If Hasselbeck has a setback, the team would have to turn to Whitehurst, a 10th-year pro who has played in just 21 NFL games with nine career starts.

Whitehurst was claimed off waivers when Luck was injured. Pagano was asked his confidence level in Whitehurst leading the team if necessary.

“Well, I think we got a small sample last night when we put him in that he can function in our offense,” the coach said. “Again, it’s a very small sample, but a veteran guy, obviously been around a long, long time, knows football, knows the game. He’s picked up our scheme extremely fast, a smart guy, all those things. I think we’d be OK if we have to go down that road.”

Hasselbeck completed 16-of-26 passes for 169 yards with one touchdown. He took four of the team’s five sacks allowed. Whitehurst completed 4-of-8 passes for 51 yards.

The last time the Colts played the Jaguars marked Hasselbeck’s first start for Luck. The Colts won 16-13 in overtime on Oct. 4 at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Three of the final four regular-season games are against division opponents, including the Texans visiting Indianapolis next week. The Colts could wrap up their third consecutive division crown and a fourth consecutive playoff berth if they win the next two games and the Texans lose at home to New England Sunday and then at Indianapolis, where Houston has never won since its 2002 inception.

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

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