With Luck out, Whitehurst once again might replace Hasselbeck

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Dec. 16, 2015) – Chuck Pagano ended the suspense regarding Andrew Luck’s return to the Indianapolis Colts’ lineup.

It won’t occur in Sunday’s colossal AFC South showdown with the Houston Texans in Lucas Oil Stadium.

“No,’’ Pagano said Wednesday. “I’m not going to sit here and try to play that whole game with the kid or the Texans.

“He’s not playing.’’

Just like that, the Colts’ playoff aspirations rest in the hands of Matt Hasselbeck. Or Charlie Whitehurst.

If it’s the latter when the Colts and Texans square off in a game that likely will determine the AFC South championship and No. 4 seed in the AFC playoffs, we’ll find ourselves mulling over a quirky déjà vu moment.

We would flash back to the final game of the 2010 regular season. It was the 6-9 Seattle Seahawks entertaining the 7-8 St. Louis Rams on the prime-time stage.

With the NFC West title – and its season – on the line, Seattle was without its starting quarterback. That was Matt Hasselbeck.

It turned to his backup. That was Charlie Whitehurst.

“Kind of crazy,’’ Whitehurst said of history perhaps repeating itself.

There’s every chance Hasselbeck makes his fifth consecutive start while Luck continues to recover from a lacerated kidney. However, he was held out of Wednesday’s practice with back and rib injuries, and looked on with his left arm in a sling.

Pagano hopes Hasselbeck practices Thursday, but it’s possible the abuse Hasselbeck’s 40-year-old body has taken in consecutive 35-point losses to Pittsburgh and Jacksonville will render him to backup duty against the Texans.

Then, it’s Whitehurst’s offense. The Colts claimed him off waivers from Tennessee Nov. 12, four days after Luck suffered a lacerated kidney and torn abdominal muscle against Denver.

“That’s why I’m here,’’ Whitehurst said. “They needed a quarterback. There was a chance this could happen. Matt obviously did a great job and probably will do a great job if he’s called upon this week.

“But I thought there was a chance this could happen.’’

Again, if the Whitehurst-for-Hasselbeck scenario plays out, it’ll represent one of those been there, done that moments.

The Seahawks took a 6-9 record into the 2010 regular-season finale, but would secure the NFC West and a playoff berth with a win at home over the 7-8 Rams.

Problem was, Hasselbeck would miss the win-or-else game with a hip injury.

“I knew I was going to play that game the whole time,’’ Whitehurst said. “This would be a little different.’’

If Whitehurst makes his 10th career start, the Colts hope he’s able to duplicate the performance from what was his second career start. He was efficient while leading the Seahawks to a 16-6 victory over the Rams, completing 22-of-36 passes for 192 yards and a first-quarter touchdown to Mike Williams.

So, Whitehurst was asked, you played well?

“We won, I know that,’’ he replied with a smile.

“I remember it. It was great to be a part of it. It was the first time I was really part of a win. It was my second start in the NFL. It was awesome. We won and it was Sunday night football, last game of the season.’’

Whitehurst paused.

“I’ve been in a game that’s mattered like this one,’’ he said. “If my number’s called, I plan to go in there and perform.

“That’s why we’re here. That’s why everybody’s here, to play.’’

Whitehurst started five games with Tennessee last season, two against the Colts. He lost both while completing a combined 24-of-51 passes for 249 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

In 22 career games since being selected in the third round of the 2006 draft by San Diego, Whitehurst has completed 195-of-356 passes for 2,190 yards with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He’s 2-7 as a starter.

Luck not 100 percent: Luck returned to the practice field Wednesday for the first time since suffering the kidney and abdominal injuries against Denver, but was limited to throwing in positional drills.

He has not been cleared for 11-on-11 work, and won’t play against Houston.

“There’s obviously disappointment,’’ Luck said. “Every game you don’t play is a disappointment. You obviously want to get back as quick as you can.

“I don’t say I’m surprised, in a sense. You stick to the process. But disappointed? Sure. Absolutely.’’

Luck added his lacerated kidney “is not fully healed and that does not allow me to get in a position with contact that could further injure myself worse.’’

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