WESTFIELD, Ind. – Jim Irsay took time from checking out the latest edition of the Indianapolis Colts – his Indianapolis Colts – and did nothing to tamp down the hype that’s been generated during the offseason.
Excellence, he insisted, is not good enough.
“It’s not a commitment to excellence,’’ Irsay said Saturday at Grand Park Sports Campus. “Excellence means . . . very good.
“What we want is a commitment to greatness, which means you distinguish yourself as the single team standing.’’
You know, the single team hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
Irsay’s Colts were that last team standing Feb. 4, 2007 in South Florida. They whipped the Chicago Bears 29-17 in Super Bowl XLI.
But Irsay mentioned the Colts’ most recent championship game appearance: Super Bowl XLIV against New Orleans, again in South Florida, after the 2009 season. The Saints won 31-17.
“You guys remember 2009,’’ he said. “We won 14 games in a row, had it all set up and what a season, what a season. Boy I tell ya, one of the most bitter disappointments we ever faced because that’s the way it is when you don’t win the last game.
“And we know most of the time you don’t win the last game. But the years you do, White House and parade and on and on it goes.’’
Irsay believes the 2019 Colts possess the wherewithal to reach that last game, and win it.
“Being realistic, this team is one of the best teams that I’ve had the privilege of bringing to our fans with a general manager and head coach and have a situation that honestly matches those days of Peyton, Edgerrin, Reggie and all those guys,’’ he said. “Those guys were special.
“It’s really exciting. Andrew’s in that sweet-spot area for him age-wise and there’s really not a lot of weakness with the roster, only the excitement with these guys coming back. You can sense the air of confidence . . . but we have to prove it.’’
So much of the Colts’ present and future is tied to Andrew Luck.
“Everyone knows (if) Andrew stays healthy and has a great year, we’re going to have a great year,’’ Irsay said. “It’s almost impossible to imagine us not having a great year if Andrew has a great year.’’
Luck currently is being eased into training camp after missing the offseason work with a strained left calf. He went through 7-on-7 drills Friday but no team work. Saturday was a scheduled “maintenance’’ day, which meant no time on the practice field.
In the four seasons Luck hasn’t had to deal with right shoulder issues – he missed all of 2017 – the Colts have posted 11-5, 11-5, 11-5 and 10-6 records, and reached the playoffs each time.
To enhance their pursuit for “greatness,’’ Irsay believes the Colts must strive to earn one of the AFC’s top two playoff seeds that include a first-round bye and a second-round home game.
“What I’d like to see us do, and it’s not essential but it certainly would be helpful, is to see this team get home-field advantage, where you’re two games away from the Super Bowl and hopefully they’re both home games (but) at least one of them,’’ he said.
“To get the bye week is a huge advantage. That’s a tall order. Most people would say you’ve got to probably win at least 12 games, and they’re right. That’s very difficult.’’
Of the 40 teams in the AFC and NFC that have earned No. 1 or No. 2 seeds over the past decade, 37 have done so with at least 12 wins. Twenty-two have won at least 13 games.
The Colts won at least 12 games in seven straight seasons from 2003-09, at the time an NFL record. They were a No. 1 seed in 2005 and ’09, and a No. 2 in ’07.
The team offered no update on the condition of Jabaal Sheard, who has missed the last two days after experiencing swelling in one of his knees. No one should be surprised if the veteran defensive end misses more time.
“Coach should address that,’’ Irsay said. “I know he’s going to be fine and play this season. It’s certainly not a season-ending injury.’’
Luck wasn’t the only player held out of Saturday’s practice due to “maintenance.’’ Others held out of drills were tight end Jack Doyle, defensive tackle Margus Hunt, wideout T.Y. Hilton and offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo.
On the flip side, several players who were held out of Friday’s work returned Saturday, including safety Clayton Geathers, defensive end Justin Houston, tight end Ross Travis and wideout Deon Cain.
Bobby Okereke maintained his innocence while offering his first public comments regarding a sexual assault incident filed against him in 2015 when he still was at Stanford. He twice was cleared by the university’s in-house disciplinary board.
“Those were untrue allegations,’’ the Colts’ third-round draft pick said Saturday. “I willingly complied with the school investigation and was found not responsible. I informed the team about it during the pre-draft process. Right now I’m just focused on making the team.’’
And be sure to catch the Colts Bluezone Podcast: