INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Indianapolis Colts might have paid a hefty price for Sunday’s win over the Tennessee Titans.
Quarterback Andrew Luck’s status for Thursday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lucas Oil Stadium is in serious question after he suffered a concussion against the Titans.
Luck and safety Clayton Geathers are in the NFL’s concussion protocol and must pass through several phases – the final being cleared by an independent neurologist – before returning to the playing field.
The short week makes that a long shot.
“That’d be a good assumption,’’ coach Chuck Pagano said Monday.
If Luck is unable to play, backup Scott Tolzien will make just his third career start, and first since 2013, as the Colts (5-5) attempt to keep their playoff hopes alive against the Steelers.
“If he has to roll and be the guy, he’ll do a great job,’’ Pagano said. “He prepares really well every single day.
“Who knows? We’ll be all right if that has to be the case. We’ve still got time.’’
The steps for a player in the concussion protocol include being free of any symptoms, passing the ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) test, practicing with a red non-contact jersey, re-taking the ImPACT test, going through a full practice without the red jersey and finally gaining clearance by an independent doctor.
That process takes time, which the Colts don’t have with Thursday night’s game looming.
Cornerback Vontae Davis suffered a concussion Oct. 30 against Kansas City and needed the entire week to go through the concussion protocol and be cleared for the Nov. 5 game at Green Bay.
Cornerback Patrick Robinson missed two games after suffering a concussion in the season opener against Detroit while offensive tackle Joe Reitz missed one game with a concussion.
Pagano said Luck and Geathers “didn’t feel right’’ in the locker room after Sunday’s game. Each met with team physicians before leaving the stadium.
Luck might have suffered the head trauma early in the fourth quarter when he was sacked by Tennessee’s Derrick Morgan and Austin Johnson. While Morgan was wrapping up Luck’s legs, Johnson hit Luck chest-to-chest and drove Luck to the ground. Luck’s head snapped against the turf.
Luck remained in the game and helped the Colts seal their 24-17 win over the Titans.
Geathers apparently suffered his concussion on his fourth-and-1 hit against Titans running back DMarco Murray that essentially snuffed out the Titans’ comeback bid.
For a second straight season, the Colts likely will have to move on – temporarily this time – without Luck. He missed nine games last season with injuries to his right shoulder and ribs, and a lacerated kidney. The Colts followed the lead of backup Matt Hasselbeck and posted a 6-3 record without Luck.
“You don’t ever want to be without anybody, but we’ve been down this road before and handled it well,’’ Pagano said. “Faced a bunch of adversity and obstacles just like everyone else. This team we’re playing was without theirs for a game or two.’’
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in mid-October and missed two starts. Pittsburgh lost both games without Roethlisberger.
With Luck’s status doubtful, all eyes focus on Tolzien.
His experience consists of six games and two starts with the Green Bay Packers. He’s thrown for 721 yards with one touchdown and five interceptions, but thrown only one in the last two-plus seasons.
“Our guys will respond,’’ Pagano said. “It’s a matter of everybody stepping up their game.’’
The Colts, he added, “thrive’’ when faced with adversity.
“We wouldn’t know how to act if everything was perfect,’’ Pagano said. “It’s football. Our guys will respond.’’