As the Indianapolis Colts head toward the all-important third preseason game, I'm still wondering when we're going to get a real read on two key players.
The Colts paid handsomely (a reported four-year, $24 million) for safety LaRon Landry and conservatively (one-year, $1.35 million) for running back Ahmad Bradshaw. So far, they're both rumors of production to come.
Landry and Bradshaw returned to practice this week, and Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Thursday that Landry could play when the Colts face the Cleveland Browns at 7 p.m. Saturday in a home preseason game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Bradshaw will not play, Pagano said.
The late start for both players might not be troubling long-term. Both have shown their value on the field during their careers. Both are veterans who won't need weeks of live hitting to find their groove.
Short-term, it's more of a problem than the Colts would spin.
I look at the schedule and believe the Colts need to beat the Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins in the first two weeks, both at home, to steer this season toward a return trip to the playoffs. If Landry, in particular, is not ready for those games, it'll put the Colts at a disadvantage. To a lesser extent, depending on your view of the running game, a lack of Bradshaw would hurt, too.
Landry's absence since Aug. 5 with a knee injury has left the Colts without a chance to see their revamped secondary together as a unit. He participated in practice Wednesday for the first time in three weeks.
“The good thing is he came from a similar system in New York,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Tuesday. “So, from a terminology standpoint, scheme standpoint, coverages, blitzes, things like that, he's very familiar. It'll take him a minute being out, just like anybody else, to knock the rust off and get back into playing mode.”
Pagano went on to acknowledge that missed time is a negative, but minimized it.
“There's a little bit of a setback there as far as not being able to play in these games,” Pagano said. “We wouldn't have played him that much in the first place. We would have treated him much like we treated a lot of the other vets like Robert (Mathis) and some of those guys, (Antoine) Bethea. The practice time is what hurts you. I think we can get him caught up as quick as possible and he'll be OK.”
Landry missed most of two seasons with the Washington Redskins due to an Achilles tendon problem, but played all 16 games with the Jets last season. In fact, he played them at such a high caliber, he became a prized free agent. Prior to his Washington struggles, he'd never missed a game for injury at any level in his football career.
Whether he's suddenly become more injury prone cannot be determined yet.
As for Bradshaw, he underwent surgery on his right foot in January and missed most of training camp before getting back in the mix this week. All along, the Colts have hinted that Bradshaw's first action would be in Week 1 of the regular season, and that they're confident he can hit the ground running.
Pagano said Bradshaw won't play on Saturday, and starters or veterans usually play little, if at all, in the fourth preseason game, which is next Thursday at Cincinnati.
“He's a pro,” Pagano said. “He understands what it takes to be ready once the season opener hits on (Sept. 8). If we get (some preseason game time), that's a bonus. If not, I'm not worried about it.”
Pagano wouldn't likely say he was worried, even if he was. NFL coaches hold their injuries and player performances close to the vest during training camp and in regular-season practices.
Are the Colts worried about Landry and Bradshaw and their health heading into the season? If so, they're not letting on.
Seeing those players in game action would go a long way toward peace of mind about investments made, however.