Matt Hasselbeck says his 40-year-old body was sore for two days from the pounding he took at Pittsburgh Sunday night.
But the Indianapolis Colts quarterback took his normal number of snaps Wednesday then Thursday and sounded optimistic about being ready to go for Sunday’s game at the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“This is probably the first Monday and Tuesday where I haven’t felt well,” the 17th-year pro said Wednesday. “I was real stiff and sore. Took kind of an awkward hit to the top of the head and it jacked my neck up pretty good.
“I’ve been really fortunate this season. Monday mornings have been fine. Felt pretty good, so it’s probably just a matter of time until I had this. You don’t need to feel good on Monday or Tuesday, you’ve just got to feel good on Wednesday and more importantly on Sunday.”
Hasselbeck suffered a slight rib separation as well as a stiff neck from a game the Colts can't put past them soon enough. The Colts (6-6) suffered their worst loss of the season, a 45-10 primetime embarrassment to the Steelers, in which Hasselbeck took four of the five sacks allowed and more than twice as many hits.
Because Andrew Luck’s return from a lacerated kidney and partially torn abdominal muscle is at least a week or two away, Hasselbeck’s health is a primary concern as the Colts regroup from the blowout. They’re still tied with the Houston Texans atop the AFC South Division, so the two-time defending division champions don’t have much of a margin for error in trying to make the playoffs for a fourth consecutive postseason.
“I just had a stiff neck and spasming muscles, just tried to get some traction in there,” he said. “I don’t know what the protocol is for someone hitting you on the top of the head. Just like a lot of ice and heat and compression socks.
“I probably had worse injuries when I was younger. That’s just part of the deal. Again, the schedule for any quarterback is you kind of use Monday and Tuesday for active recovery we call it. You find ways to get flushed out of whatever soreness you have and be ready to go for a great practice on Wednesday. We were able to do that.”
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was encouraged after watching his quarterback take “a lion’s share” of the practice snaps.
“Absolutely,” the coach said. “He’s a warrior.”
Hasselbeck lost for the first time in five starts subbing for Luck. His first start came in Week 4 against the Jaguars (4-8), a 16-13 home overtime victory at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Unlike in the previous starts, when Hasselbeck had seven touchdowns and just two interceptions, he was intercepted twice and lost a fumble against the Steelers. He misfired on his first throw to Andre Johnson, who was open and might have scored. The next throw was ill-advised over the middle and intercepted.
“I just wanted to win that game,” said Hasselbeck, who exited in the final quarter after completing 16-of-26 passes for 169 yards. “It’s not a place I’ve ever won at, not a place that this team has done well at.
“We kind of knew the formula for winning in that game. We just didn’t do it. They had some turnovers early that gave us opportunities and we didn’t handle anything well. We didn’t handle the blitz well. We didn’t handle the three-man rush, drop eight, we didn’t handle anything well. We ran the ball well. That’s about it. On my end, I’ve got to be better.”
Hasselbeck was hard on himself for the Colts failing to capitalize with touchdowns after two early Steelers turnovers resulted in an interception and field goal.
“We went into that game saying, ‘Hey, we want to be good in the red zone and we want to be good on third down,’” he said. “We were terrible at both. They didn’t play us one snap of man on third down, which is shocking. They didn’t rush more than three guys a lot of the time on third down, which again was surprising. You learn from it. You move on. That game is over.”
But he admitted the soreness on Monday and Tuesday had him questioning whether he could bounce back and play this next game.
“Yeah, I was wondering,” he said. “I wasn’t sure, wasn’t really sure. It was kind of an awkward injury. Usually I have had an injury before and I kind of know what it would take or how long it would take, but this was a little different. I wasn’t really sure.”
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.