Clock stuck on midnight for former Cinderella Colts

The SportsXchange

INDIANAPOLIS -- In the wake of the Cinderella season that the Indianapolis Colts experienced last year, when everything went right on the field, perhaps what happened to the team the past few days should not be a surprise.

Since late last week, the Colts lost three offensive starters for the season -- running back Vick Ballard (knee, torn ACL), offensive guard Donald Thomas (quad, torn ligament) and tight end Dwayne Allen (hip).

Ballard was injured in a non-contact drill during practice last Thursday. Thomas was sidelined midway through the first quarter of last Sunday's home loss to Miami.

And it was announced Wednesday that Allen, who was injured in Indianapolis' season-opening win over Oakland two weeks ago, would soon be undergoing surgery that would end his season.

To say that the Colts will be limping into this week's road game with the San Francisco 49ers might be stretching it a bit. But it is safe to assume that the Indianapolis coaching staff will be busy trying to put together a game plan that will feature a few different parts on offense.

"Like Donald (Thomas), like Vick (Ballard), like anybody we've lost to this point, makes you sick. Injuries are part of this game. We all understand that. We know that. But it will be next man up," Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano said.

"Like the others, we feel for him. But (Allen) will go and get it taken care of, rehab and be back for the offseason program in 2014."

The decision to sit the second-year tight end from Clemson came somewhat as a surprise.

"We were all hoping that it would be something that with time and with rest, he would come around. (Allen) is a tough, tough, tough kid," Pagano explained.

"Playing through the foot injury (for example). But once we got the (hip) evaluated, we saw exactly what the doctors saw in there and what needed to be done. For the long term and the big picture, it's the right thing to do right now."

Ballard will be replaced by running back Ahmad Bradshaw. Offensive guards Joe Reitz or rookie Hugh Thornton will take over for Thomas. And second-year tight end Coby Fleener will now get the bulk of the work instead of splitting time with Allen.

Dominique Jones and recently signed Jack Doyle should rotate as Fleener's primary backups. Rookie Justice Cunningham, who is currently on the practice squad, may be elevated to the active roster as well.

"We're going to do whatever we have to do that gives us the best chance to win (Sunday)," the Colts coach said.

As tough it will be to move on from their recent spate of injuries, the Colts' concentration now is on facing what is expected to be a surly San Francisco team this week. The 49ers are coming off a 29-3 loss to NFC West rival Seattle.

"Guys are excited to get back out on the football field (after Indianapolis' 24-20 home loss to Oakland) and get ready. We know that we have a great challenge ahead of us. First road game, hostile environment, you can go on and on and on," Pagano voiced.

"But we're worrying about us. Fixing the things that we need to fix and prepare the best we can. Go execute and stick to the process."

That's the key, the Colts coach stressed.

"Just focus on us. Need to be more consistent. Play 60 minutes of consistent football. Don't leave plays out there. Don't leave points out there on the field. Take care of us. We know what we're about to face. We're playing a really good football team," Pagano said.

"They're well-coached. They've got great players all over the place. So it's more about us. It's more about our preparation, it's more about our focus. Knowing exactly what to do so we can go out there and play fast."
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