Colts hoping Collie makes speedy recovery

Austin Collie keeps telling the Indianapolis Colts he feels

well.

Teammates and coaches are praying he is.

Less than 24 hours after coach Chuck Pagano confirmed the

veteran receiver had sustained yet another concussion, discussions

inside the team’s usually jovial locker room took a serious turn

out of concern for their friend.

”It’s scary, especially with all the information that’s been

coming out the last two years or whatever,” said cornerback

Jerraud Powers, who came to Indy in the same 2009 draft class as

Collie. ”You see someone, you want what’s best for them, and he’s

a smart enough guy that he’ll make the right decisions. He’s a heck

of a player.”

He’s also a player the young Colts (No. 32 in AP Pro32)

desperately need this season.

With Andrew Luck replacing Peyton Manning, Collie and five-time

Pro Bowler Reggie Wayne are expected to help Luck make the

transition from college to the NFL and mentor a receiving corps

that is almost entirely new. Of the 13 players who caught passes

for Indy last season, only four are back – Wayne and Collie and

running backs Donald Brown and Delone Carter.

Like Wayne, Collie is a proven player.

He emerged quickly as a rookie, demonstrating enough skill on

the field and the mental capacity off of it to catch the attention

of four-time league MVP Manning, who held weekly one-on-one film

sessions with Collie. Things went so well in 2009 that the rookie

caught 60 passes for 676 yards and seven touchdowns, helping

Manning win his second AFC title before coming up short against New

Orleans in the Super Bowl.

Things haven’t gone nearly as smooth the last two seasons.

In early November 2010, Collie was knocked unconscious after a

vicious high-low combination from two Philadelphia Eagles safeties.

He sat out the next week against Cincinnati, then tried to return

the following week against New England but left early with what the

team described as concussion-like symptoms. Team officials never

confirmed it was a full-blown concussion.

Collie didn’t return again until Dec. 19 against Jacksonville, a

game in which he took another big hit and was diagnosed with a

second full-blown concussion, ending his season.

When Collie returned last year, he insisted he was OK. He

finished with 54 receptions, 514 yards and one TD – all career-lows

– but, of course, Indy didn’t have Manning, used three different

quarterbacks and collapsed to a league-worst 2-14 record.

Now the questions about his health are back. Collie left Sunday

night’s preseason game in the first quarter after Steelers

linebacker Larry Foote hit Collie in the head with a forearm,

leaving Collie briefly on the ground.

”I know the league has put extra emphasis on concussions

lately, and I hope he recovers quickly and everything is OK,”

longtime kicker Adam Vinatieri said. ”I’m hoping this is the last

one he ever has to worry about.”

Collie watched the team’s afternoon practice from the sideline,

and though did not speak with reporters Tuesday, he did respond to

fans’ concerns Monday night on Twitter.

”Thanks to everyone for their thoughts and prayers. I’m doing

really well and feeling great,” he wrote.

Pagano said Monday, following the diagnosis, that Collie would

be day-to-day and that the team would be cautious before using

Collie again – a point he reiterated Tuesday.

When asked what advice he would give a son facing the same

scenario, Pagano responded: ”That’s up to the doctors and

Austin.”

Some teammates questioned the play itself, saying the hit to the

head should have drawn a penalty.

Foote could still be fined for the hit, too.

Either way, the scene left some of Collie’s teammates

disturbed.

”We were all a little upset that the refs didn’t call

anything,” rookie receiver Griff Whalen said. ”It’s upsetting to

see, you never want to see one of your guys go down, but you can’t

play tentatively because it only makes you more likely to get hurt,

I think.”

What happens next is up to the doctors and Collie.

He must pass a series of tests and be cleared by doctors before

returning to action, and close friends would like to see him back

on the field – if that’s the route Collie decides to take.

”We came in together, so I’m closer to him than some others

here,” Powers said. ”We’ll see how he’s doing and what he’s

thinking.”

Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and

http://twitter.com/AP-NFL