INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Dec. 17, 2015) – The situation would be laughable if it wasn’t so painful, and critical to the Indianapolis Colts’ teetering playoff aspirations.
The only issue standing between Matt Hasselbeck making a fifth consecutive start in Sunday’s must-win meeting with the Houston Texans Lucas Oil Stadium is his ability to breathe. And throw the football effectively.
Yuk it up if you must, but it’s hardly a laughing matter that four days before a game that likely will determine the AFC South title and a playoff berth the Colts are uncertain who will man their most influential position.
It won’t be Andrew Luck, who returned to limited practice Wednesday but will miss a fifth consecutive game while recovering from a lacerated kidney.
It might be Hasselbeck, who rested his battered 40-year-old body Wednesday but practiced on a limited basis Thursday.
It might be Charlie Whitehurst if Hasselbeck is unable to effectively deal with a rib injury that’s affecting two rather important requirements of playing quarterback at any level, let alone the NFL.
Two quick exchanges with the media summed up Hasselbeck’s status.
How restricted are you?
“Breathing is probably the hardest thing, like heavy (breathing),’’ he said. “I don’t know. It’s a day-to-day deal.’’
Isn’t breathing sort of important?
“Heavy breathing,’’ he stressed. “It’s not easy.’’
Are you having difficulty throwing?
Hasselbeck laughed lightly as he was led away to a meeting by a member of the team’s public relations staff.
Hasselbeck has been on the official NFL injury report the past two weeks with neck, back and rib injuries. He narrowed the list considerably.
“I only have one thing,’’ he said. “It’s at kind of a junction point you could call it. You’ve got to call it something, (so) I think ribs is probably the most accurate description.’’
Is Hasselbeck dealing with pain?
“Not an incredible amount of pain,’’ he said. “I’m taking some things for pain. I just need to play at a high level.’’
Hasselbeck suffered a mild rib separation in the Dec. 6 loss at Pittsburgh, and aggravated it in Sunday’s lopsided setback at Jacksonville. It occurred when Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith gave him a shove in the fourth quarter as he was going out of bounds in front of the Jacksonville bench.
Hasselbeck first pounded his helmet on the ground, then slapped the ground in disgust with his hands.
“Same injury from the Pittsburgh game,’’ he said. “I just wasn’t able to protect myself the way I would have liked to. I just ran out of runway there on the sideline and had to go down, and just kind of went down on my left side.
“I knew right away that my day was over. I kind of felt the exact same thing from Pittsburgh. I was upset. That was it for me.’’
The overriding question: does Hasselbeck have anything left to give a team that desperately needs it?
He conceded he felt pretty good after going through Thursday’s practice, but that was a dramatic improvement from earlier in the week.
“Monday I thought there was no way,’’ Hasselbeck said.
Then, position coach Clyde Christensen suggested they take it one day at a time. The team kept Hasselbeck out of Wednesday’s practice to allow him extra time to heal, and eased him back in Thursday.
“I have no idea what will happen (Friday),’’ Hasselbeck said.
He wouldn’t speculate on whether he’ll be able to start Sunday.
“I don’t know,’’ he said. “That’s coach’s decision. My goal was just to come out and just give them what I had today at practice and if I can go, that’s great. If I can’t, Charlie is a vet. He’s been around and I know he’ll do a great job.’’
While his injuries and status were the topic of the day in the Colts’ locker room, Hasselbeck pointed out “everybody’s banged up late in the year.
“It’s December football. You’ve just got to be able to play well. And if you can’t play well, it’s the next-guy-up kind of mentality.’’
In Luck’s absence, Hasselbeck has directed to the Colts to a 4-2 record, but the losses have come in the past two weeks by a combined 96-26 score. He’s been largely inefficient – 34-of- 61, 421 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions – and knocked out of each game.
“My focus has been on giving them everything I’ve got, fighting through the pain, showing the coaching staff what I have to offer,’’ Hasselbeck said. “Then it’s (the coaches) job to make that decision, to decide who plays, who doesn’t, who sits, who dresses, who’s up, who’s down. That’s on them.
“For me, kind of let them worry about that. I’m just going out there and try to make accurate throws and make good decisions and basically given them what I’ve got.’’