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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Time for some rest

Monday, December 22, 2008

(Photo)
Indianapolis Colts' coach Tony Dungy talked strategy with players during training camp. Dungy announced recently he plans on resting starters early during Sunday's game against Tennessee.
* Colts' coach plans on pulling players against Titans

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Tony Dungy has again mapped it out.

He gave players a four-day break after Thursday night's victory, is giving them another day off on Christmas and plans to pull most of his starters early Sunday afternoon.

Yes, the Colts coach has reverted to his old philosophy of giving Indy a little extra rest heading into the playoffs albeit with a few modifications this time.

"I don't think we'll scale back too much," Dungy said late last week.

"The one thing we will do is protect the guys who are a little bit nicked up, so the guys who are iffy probably won't play, but we definitely want to win."

At this point, who isn't hurting?

In the past month, 2007 defensive player of the year Bob Sanders, defensive captain Gary Brackett, Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday and record-setting receiver Marvin Harrison have all missed games.

Others who have sat out include starting defensive tackles Keyunta Dawson and Eric Foster and 1,000-yard rusher Joseph Addai.

The good news: Dungy doesn't believe the Colts (11-4) had any significant injuries in Thursday night's 31-24 victory at Jacksonville, a win that clinched Indy's seventh straight playoff berth and locked the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs.

But after surviving a season-long rash of injuries, the Colts are playing their best ball of the season and Dungy doesn't want to chance anything going awry before next week's first-round playoff game.

So Dungy is trying to balance his top priority, making sure the Colts are healthy for the postseason, with his players' ambitions.

"They always want to play," Dungy said.

"They're competitive guys and they would like to play, and they definitely want to win. We'll try to be smart and try to win at the same time."

The Colts (11-4) have incentive for playing it straight.

Indianapolis doesn't want to lose momentum after winning eight straight to make its seventh straight playoff berth, hasn't been swept by a division foe since 2002 and sure doesn't want to start now.

A victory Sunday over top-seeded Tennessee (13-2) may even put some questions in the Titans' minds if the AFC South rivals were to square off for a third time in the playoffs.

One more victory would also extend the Colts' NFL-record of consecutive 12-win seasons to seven.

Yet Dungy's job is to focus on the bigger picture -- the playoff game at either Denver or San Diego. The winner of Sunday's showdown in San Diego will win the AFC West title and host the Colts in the first round.

The big-picture strategy hasn't always worked out, though.

A year ago, the Colts played their starters only about a half, losing 16-10 to the Titans, had a first-round bye and then lost at home to San Diego in the divisional round.

Dungy used the same philosophy in 2005.

After starting 13-0, Indy's backups closed out the regular season with a 17-13 victory over Arizona thanks to a last-minute goal-line stand.

Two weeks later, the Colts lost to eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh.

But in 2004, the Colts played Denver in back-to-back weeks, losing the regular-season finale 33-14 with the backups and then routing Denver 49-24 in the first round of the playoffs. They lost a second-round game at New England.

While some fans have questioned the wisdom of taking, essentially, a second bye week, Dungy has never wavered from the philosophy except for a few individual cases.

He likes using the regular-season finale to give players who have missed action some playing time in an effort to shake off the rust before the playoffs, and that could happen again Sunday with players like Brackett, Harrison and Addai, who did not play against the Jags.

The defensive starters could play a little longer, too, an effort to clean up the mistakes they made against the Jags last week.

But even with Peyton Manning chasing his third MVP, don't expect to see most of the Colts' big names for more than a half.

"We'd like to get to 12," Dungy said.

"We'd like to not have our division teams think they can beat us. In that regard, it'll be a big game. We'll see how it goes as the week progresses, but we'd like to play to win and get ourselves ready for the following week."



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