INDIANAPOLIS – Finally, Jeff Saturday was able to take a deep breath and enjoy what had been a frenetic 11 days.
It was Thursday evening, and virtually everything was in place for the Indianapolis Colts’ Sunday meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The team’s interim head coach walked the halls at the Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance Football Center and turned into Reggie Wayne’s office. The two long-time franchise icons just chilled.
“It was his birthday, and so we sat in his office for a little bit and just had a great conversation,’’ Saturday said Friday afternoon. “I felt like from a staff perspective and from a practice perspective, we had two really good days, and we were expecting a good third day.
“Everything was installed, so I felt very comfortable. That’s the first time I really just took a breath and kind of probably appreciated the moment. I’ve had a great time. I’ve really enjoyed it.
“That was the first time I could kick back, and Weeze (Wayne) and I had some good laughs. A bunch of guys came in. It was a lot of fun.’’
Saturday has been on a fast track since replacing Frank Reich Nov. 7. While his family remained in Atlanta, he’s getting settled into a “residence’’ and spending long hours at the team complex.
Gradually, he’s putting his fingerprints on the day-to-day operations.
Saturday’s two biggest points of emphasis: accountability and energy.
“That’s just kind of my personality,’’ he said. “Making sure guys understand I want to be held accountable to what my job is and what my role is. I expect the same from them.
“And then energy; energy and effort. Every time I go out there I hope that they see that joy that I have being around this game and encourage those guys to battle.’’
Among changes to the practice routine are more “ones versus ones’’ situations, Saturday said.
“We do more competitive drills. I love that, and I loved that as a player. I think it’s a great way to polish your craft. I’ve been excited about that, and the guys have really stepped up and met it.’’
The Colts practiced indoors Thursday and Friday, but were outside Wednesday despite temperatures in the mid-30s and Sunday’s game being indoors. Reich occasionally took a similar approach.
Players should anticipate more of that, unless snow and ice make that impossible. The indoor facility has artificial turf. The outdoor fields are grass.
“If the field is good, I’m going out every day,’’ Saturday said. “If I can get on grass, we’re going to be on grass. The ice and the slipperiness of the field is really what persuaded me to go (indoors). If we can be on grass, we’re going to be out there.’’
Player safety is the overriding issue, but Saturday simply prefers “the energy outside.’’
“When you go inside, you can feel a little bit antiseptic,’’ he said. “You’re tight. You have one field. I love being outside. These dudes are plenty tough. I’m the softest of all of us so I can just bundle up, and then we’re all good.’’
Defensive end Kwity Paye (ankle) and tight end Jelani Woods (shoulder) have been ruled out of the Eagles game. Right tackle Braden Smith (back), linebacker Zaire Franklin (illness) and cornerback Isaiah Rodgers (illness) are questionable.
Cornerback Kenny Moore II returned to practice Friday after missing the two previous days with an illness.
“A little sick bug going through,’’ Saturday said, “so just told the guys to be mindful of that. That time of year, right?’’
Smith missed his first practice of the week Friday.
“A little back issue,’’ Saturday said. “So, we’ll just see how it works out the next day or two and then see how he feels on Sunday.’’
Losing Smith against the Eagles would be a major blow. Philly features one of the NFL’s most disruptive defenses. It ranks tied-10th with 26 sacks and has 53 tackles for loss. The Eagles are tied for the league lead with 18 takeaways and are second with 12 interceptions.
If Smith is out, the Colts will turn to either Matt Pryor or Dennis Kelly.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.