INDIANAPOLIS – Dwight Freeney could barely spit the word out of his mouth.
Spoiler? He'd rather not embrace the idea.
It's true the Indianapolis Colts might assume that role when they play the Tennessee Titans at 1 p.m. Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium. But don't even suggest that it's any sort of motivation for the 0-13 team.
“You never want to be in that situation where that's all you have to play for is to spoil somebody else's chances,” Freeney said. “What we're trying to do is win. And doing that would spoil somebody else. But we're not going out there saying, ‘Let's spoil their chances.' ”
The Titans (7-6) are battling the Jets (8-5), Bengals (7-6) and Raiders (7-6) for a wild-card playoff berth. One of the wild-card spots will likely go to the Ravens (10-3) or Steelers (10-3), who are battling for first in their division.
A loss to the Colts would probably ruin the Titans' chances.
“I honestly don't care about the spoiler, personally,” Colts tight end Jacob Tamme said. “I just want to win a game. I really just want to win. Hopefully, we can put a couple together and hopefully it starts with this. I don't think anybody's too concerned about being the spoiler.”
The Colts are no doubt concerned, even if they downplay it, with the idea of avoiding a 0-16 season. They face their three AFC South opponents, with Tennessee on Sunday, Houston on Dec. 22 and Jacksonville on Jan.1, to finish the season.
Freeney, who increased his career sack total to 101.5 against Baltimore last Sunday with two sacks, said the team is focused purely on the task at hand for now.
Has the losing week after week become exhausting? No question.
“Of course, it does wear on you,” Freeney said. “Obviously you don't want to be in this type of situation. You would love to win games and make more plays, but that's life. You have your ups and downs in so many ways. But you can't give up, you have to keep fighting.”
Colts quarterback Dan Orlovsky, who started seven games for the Detroit Lions when they finished 0-16 in 2008, said the atmosphere is not the same with the Colts.
“I think it's just a different culture of guys,” Orlovsky said.
Colts coach Jim Caldwell, whose game-day expressions usually run the gamut from blank to impassive, showed a bit of irritation Wednesday. He was asked if the players' frustration was more pointed now than earlier in the season. Caldwell's irritation was subtle, as usual, but his words reflected some growing exasperation.
“Oftentimes people (think), to show that, a guy has got to kick a door in his locker, throw his helmet and all that. That's the kind of stuff that all you guys like to see, I guess, I don't know,” Caldwell said. “But it's not necessarily an indication of a guy's frustration level, his competitiveness or his desire to win.”
Contrary to some speculation and rumor on the Internet, quarterback Peyton Manning did not return to practice. Caldwell said there is no definite plan for when Manning might return to practice, but did confirm he has been throwing the ball as part of his rehabilitation. Manning stated that last week, too.
Manning did not appear on the practice field during the 20-minute window when the media could attend.