BALTIMORE – Distractions, storylines and angles are a plenty as the 2012 NFL Playoffs get ready to begin on a Sunny and not-to-cold weekend on the eastern seaboard.
From Chuck Pagano’s return-in more ways than one-to the Colts’ improbably ride to the playoffs the impending retirement of an NFL Icon, the revisiting of Indianapolis to their original home leaves plenty to talk about in the days leading up to the showdown.
This could be a major issue for a Colts team that returns just five from its AFC Championship team in 2009 and features a sizable lot of players who have never played post-season professional football in January.
Pagano has tried to prevent such a problem with a simple slogan.
“Just stick with the process,” said Pagano of his team trying to keep its momentum as they head toward Wild Card weekend. “It’s another week, we know the stakes are higher. The energy, the excitement, all that stuff is higher, but don’t get caught up in all that stuff.
“Do what you’ve been doing for the last 16 weeks and it will be good enough.”
The last six weeks to be more specific. Since a lopsided loss to New England in late November the Colts won five of their last six games, including their most complete game of the season last Sunday in a 28-16 win over the Texans. That’s why the team has preached during its practice week the importance of keeping things as close to normal as possible, even if the stakes are not.
“The process is the details,” said defensive end Cory Redding. “The little things, doing your job, not getting too high or too low, just staying an even keel, doing what you’re supposed to do, doing your job, that’s working the process.”
Reggie Wayne is used to doing so as 2012 marks his tenth playoff appearance with the Colts. Unlike those previous nine appearances, he will be taking the field with a rookie quarterback in Andrew Luck who will get his first taste of the playoffs Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
“Hopefully it won’t be such a big culture shock when they first get there,” said Wayne of the rookies. “I told the receivers, ‘Trust me, no one out there in purple is going to be your friend. Just be prepared for whatever, prepare to hear whatever, and just have tunnel vision out.
“Go out there and play ball like you’ve been playing.’”
So far, Luck has taken the advice to heart.
“It’s a football game still. I think we’ve done a lot to get to this point so I don’t think you need to wholesale change things,” said Luck of the playoffs. “Obviously, intensity is going to ratchet up, things are going to kick up a notch but trust in the same preparation, in the same process and hopefully that’ll pay dividends.”
Maybe the process will too