By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun
7:33 PM EST, December 9, 2011
Dwight Freeney is a video-game aficionado who enjoys playing titles such as "Call of Duty: Black Ops," "God of War III" and the "Madden NFL" franchise.
So the Indianapolis defensive end didn't need much elaboration when asked during a conference call with Baltimore media Wednesday if he wished he could hit the reset button on the Colts' 0-12 season.
"Absolutely," Freeney said. "Obviously, you don't want to have a season like this. Us especially, we're not used to this at all. We're used to making the playoffs nine years straight and all that and win records and all that. So this is definitely a different feeling."
Indeed, the 2011 season is far from what people inside and outside of the Colts' organization envisioned.
For many years, Indianapolis has been synonymous with success in the NFL. The club has captured seven AFC South titles in the last nine years and capped the 2006 season with a 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl.
In the nine years since the Colts last sat out the postseason, they had compiled a record of 118 wins against just 39 losses (including playoffs).
That's what makes digesting what could be the second winless campaign in franchise history that upsetting. (The 1982 squad went 0-8-1 in a strike-shortened season.)
"It's obviously not an easy thing, but I think the good thing is that we have a number of guys with certainly great character and great leadership qualities — in particular some of our older guys," Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell said during his conference call Wednesday. "They understand what it takes and that it's certainly not going to get done by complaining and things of that nature. It still takes hard work, and you've just got to continue to focus in on what we can control, and that is how we prepare for each and every game."
Injuries have plagued the Colts, who lost a pair of season-opening starters in middle linebacker Gary Brackett (left rotator cuff) and free safety Melvin Bullitt (right shoulder) in September, starting defensive tackle Eric Foster (dislocated right ankle) in October, and starting cornerback Jerraud Powers (dislocated left elbow) on Tuesday.
But the biggest hole to fill was at quarterback where four-time league Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning has been absent since undergoing a series of neck operations in the preseason and regular season.
Manning has been especially troublesome to the Ravens over the years, beating them eight consecutive times, including twice in the playoffs.
Still, seven-time Pro Bowler Ed Reed said he wished Manning was healthy enough to play Sunday.
"You never want to see a guy hurt, especially with an injury like Peyton has," the free safety said. "So I definitely wish him the best. I wish he was out there. But we're not going to take this team lightly. The preparation is going to be the same way as if he's in there. It's no different to me."
Making his first start of the season last Sunday, Dan Orlovsky completed 30-of-37 passes for 353 yards and two touchdowns, and the Colts matched a season high for points in a 31-24 loss to the New England Patriots.
Orlovsky — not Manning — has the attention of the Ravens' defense, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said.
"[Manning is] a great quarterback, but like I said, the guys last week went out there and lit it up," Suggs said. "So we're definitely going to have to address that. But you've got to act accordingly. They're going to come in and try to get a win."
Indianapolis could play the role of spoiler and affect the AFC playoff picture with a victory Sunday, but simply getting in the win column might be the best tonic for what's ailing the Colts.
"The mood, it's not great, but it's not as bad as you might think," Freeney said. "Like I said earlier, it's probably a product of the fact of the way we go about things. The losses, we don't worry about [them] once we go to that next opponent. The wins, you don't care about, and you go on and play that next opponent. You take each opponent separately and as its own challenge — separate from everything else — and you put all of your energy and focus. Obviously, around this time, we're used to it meaning a lot more than it is, but it still means a lot. You're playing for pride, and we have a lot of pride."
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