INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Dec. 27, 2015) – Who’s next? Good question.
To sum up the quarterback dilemma facing the Indianapolis Colts as they look to next Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Tennessee Titans, it seems likely that anyone except Matt Hasselbeck will lead them.
Maybe it’s Andrew Luck, who’s missed the last six games while recovering from a lacerated kidney. Maybe it’s Charlie Whitehurst. Maybe it’s Stephen Morris, signed last week by the Colts as an emergency option.
Hasselbeck wasn’t optimistic he could overcome his latest injury, a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder that knocked him out of a fourth consecutive game. He injured his throwing shoulder in the second quarter when Miami defensive tackle Jordan Phillips drove him to the ground.
“I’m not ruling anything out, but I’m not super optimistic about a seven-day return right now,’’ Hasselbeck said after the Colts’ 18-12 win over the Dolphins.
He remained in the game for one play after suffering the injury before being replaced by Whitehurst.
Hasselbeck said referee Gene Steratore suggested the NFL’s oldest position player – Hasselbeck is 40, and probably feeling it – had suffered enough after his incomplete pass to tight end Jack Doyle.
“He saw that I was trying to suck it up and he is like, ‘Hey, if you can’t throw, you need to get out of the game,’’’ he said. “So I took his advice.
“It’s unfortunate. It is the first time having an injury in my throwing arm, to my right shoulder. It’s not incredibly painful, it just doesn’t work that well. So it’s disappointing.’’
Whitehurst took over, and “managed the game well,’’ according to Chuck Pagano. “He went out and did a heck of a job.’’
However, Whitehurst suffered a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter that had him limping noticeably. He was able to return to the field for the game-ending kneel-down, but might not have been able to play had the Colts actually needed him to run the offense.
“We’ll never know that,’’ Pagano said. “Fortunately it ended the way it did, so I don’t know.’’
The possibility of Luck returning for the finale hinges on him gaining medical clearance that shows his kidney is completely healed. He’s increased his practice workload the last few weeks, but hasn’t participated in full-scale team drills.
Also, the Colts might decide to keep their franchise quarterback out of harm’s way if they are eliminated from the postseason. A Cincinnati win at Denver Monday night would do that.
The injury to his right shoulder is the latest obstacle for Hasselbeck. He started two games early in the season while battling a serious intestinal disorder, and has dealt with injuries to his ribs, left shoulder, neck, back and jaw. He revealed he separated two ribs in the Dec. 6 loss at Pittsburgh.
“I know Chuck likes to make me the punch line in his jokes, but I separated two ribs against Pittsburgh, that’s really been the thing that’s been limiting me,’’ Hasselbeck said. “I took a helmet to the jaw last week, so that was a little bit of a thing.
“But really the ribs are the only thing I’ve had (that’s) been a serious injury. Like, it’s no joke and I don’t wish it on anyone. I was really starting to feel better, so we’ll see what happens.’’
If Whitehurst or Morris starts against the Titans, it will mark just the second time since 1998 the Colts will have started three quarterbacks in one season. The previous occurred in 2011: Kerry Colllins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky.