The Herald Bulletin

September 2, 2013

George Bremer: Head games before the game


The Herald Bulletin

---- — Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen is declining to name his starter for Sunday's regular-season opener at Lucas Oil Stadium.

It brings to mind the time-worn football axiom about teams that think they have two quarterbacks not having one. Just 48 hours ago, the Raiders had four.

Terrelle Pryor appears to be the clubhouse favorite. He brings an athleticism to the position not offered by veteran Matt Flynn which could at least give Indianapolis something extra to prepare for during the week.

Of course, just the threat of starting Pryor will have the same effect.

Allen only has gone so far as to say there will at least be a package in place for the third-year quarterback no matter who starts.

It's a wise strategy for a team that opened the week as a 10-point underdog, but it shouldn't make a difference.

If Indianapolis is the Super Bowl contender it fancies itself to be this season, the Colts need to send a message Sunday. No team wants to lose its home opener. When the opponent is among the leading candidates to pick first in next April's NFL draft, however, victory becomes imperative.

There was a lot to like about Indianapolis' preseason — Monday's reported arrest of injured sixth-round safety John Boyett aside — but that means little now.

There are great expectations on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Andrew Luck appears poised to take another step toward the NFL's elite class, and a defense infused with new faces seems better suited to run Chuck Pagano's hybrid 3-4 scheme in Year 2.

The fact that Pagano himself is back on the sideline and not fighting for his life in a hospital bed is reason enough for excitement and celebration.

But the coach's inspiring words last season about his vision of winning a Super Bowl championship with this team have become the driving force for this season.

The Colts reported to training camp wearing t-shirts with an image of a hand gripping the Vince Lombardi Trophy on the back and the words "hoist it" underneath.

It's an audacious goal for a franchise that finished 2-14 just two short years ago, but how many people believed this team could make the playoffs in 2012?

On Sunday, Indianapolis takes its first step toward that goal.

The Colts should come out on the right side of the scoreboard against Oakland. But if this season is to be as special as Indianapolis believes it could be, the game has to be about more than that.

If Indianapolis hopes to establish itself as a true contender, it must play like one.

That means ignoring the Raiders' attempts at head games and dictating terms on the field.

Colts fans have seen greatness before. Sunday will provide a good idea of how long it might be before they see it again.