Colts preparing to go with backup plan against Steelers
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Scott Tolzien and Stephen Morris stood together in the corner of the end zone at Tuesday's practice.
Suddenly, the two healthy Indianapolis Colts quarterbacks were the center of attention as they went through the routine of taking snaps and fine-tuning their footwork. It may be the same way Thursday night.
With Andrew Luck missing a second straight practice because he remains in the NFL's concussion protocol, Indy is preparing to dust off the backup plan for this week's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers - just in case.
''Last year we had musical chairs at the quarterback position and we were still able to win games, still able to play good football and that's what we have to do now,'' linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said. ''We've finally got some momentum and we'll be ready for this challenge.''
If Luck can't go, it won't be exactly like last season when the Colts (5-5) plugged in former Super Bowl starter Matt Hasselbeck.
This time, coach Chuck Pagano's options appear to be relying on the rarely used Tolzien, the never-used Morris, some combination of the two or perhaps even running back Frank Gore out of the wildcat formation.
None are ideal for a team looking to build momentum and improve their playoff chances, but they won't have a choice if Luck isn't cleared Wednesday .
Tolzien's most extensive work came in 2013 when he was promoted from the Green Bay Packers' practice squad to the active roster after Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone.
He was pressed into action when backup Seneca Wallace was injured and started the next two games before being benched. Tolzien has thrown just one regular-season pass since 2013.
Morris hasn't even done that much.
In his third season in the league, the former University of Miami starter has never appeared in a regular-season game - even for last season's quarterback-needy Colts.
Heck, he hasn't even been promoted from the practice squad to the active roster yet.
''I think Scott's no different than Matt. Matt was here a longer period of time. So we're going to do what we have to do to win the football game,'' Pagano said Tuesday.
''Scott knows the playbook, Stephen knows the playbook. So we'll do what's necessary and see how they're going to play us.''
Pagano certainly has shown he has a knack for adapting on the fly - especially under seemingly impossible odds.
When Luck missed nine games with multiple injuries last season, including the final seven games with a lacerated kidney and partially torn abdominal muscle, Indy won six.
The first five came with Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst at the helm. The sixth came courtesy of Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley pairing up in the season finale, less than a week after joining the team.
The circumstances were sometimes difficult.
Hasselbeck's second win came on a Thursday night at Houston and on a week he had been ill.
But it was the Freeman-Lindley combo that really turned heads.
Both were signed in the lead up to the season finale and with neither knowing the playbook, Pagano split up their duties. Freeman was instructed to learn the regular offense and handed the two-minute drill to Lindley.
It worked perfectly as the Colts pulled out a 30-24 victory over Tennessee.
But Pagano didn't drop any hints Tuesday about the Colts' plans or even whether Luck had been ruled out.
''Still in the protocol,'' Pagano said, updating Luck's status before being asked about the plan without Luck. ''We have options.''
All the Colts can do now is get ready for Pittsburgh (5-5), hope Luck will be cleared and prepare like he won't.
''It's my job,'' Tolzien said. ''Maybe it's a little bit different, but that's why you always try to prepare like a starter, no matter what, so that you are always ready to go and you don't have to be in panic mode if that happens.''
Notes: Safety Clayton Geathers (concussion) and cornerback Vontae Davis (ankle) also did not practice Tuesday. ... Defensive tackle Art Jones (knee and ankle), outside linebacker Robert Mathis (rest), cornerback Rashaan Melvin (back) and cornerback Patrick Robinson (groin) all were full participants at practice.
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL