INDIANAPOLIS — Frank Reich called an audible Wednesday and essentially canceled the Indianapolis Colts’ dress rehearsal.
Week 3 of the NFL preseason traditionally has been the time starters play the longest. Most teams would play the first-stringers through the entire first half and into the start of the third quarter to get a feel for a regular-season game week.
But those days nearly are extinct.
Reich had announced earlier in the week the Colts’ first team would play at least one quarter, but a subsequent conversation with general manager Chris Ballard convinced him to take a different course of action.
The goal, of course, is to keep the roster as healthy as possible for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener at the Los Angeles Chargers.
“To be honest, it’s a little bit hard for me to let that go,” Reich said. “’Cause I’ve got a lot of years of Week 3 being the dress rehearsal and your ones playing a significant amount of time. I’ve been leaning away from that, but as far as the amount of time, we’ve pretty much always went about a quarter.
“But now, we feel like we’re in good health, feel like we’re in a good position with the roster. We’re in Year 2. That’s a factor. There’s several major factors.”
Among them, the fact the opponent — the Chicago Bears — also is expected to rest most, if not all, of its starters.
The NFL always has been a copycat league, and the fact the Los Angeles Rams won the NFC and advanced to Super Bowl LIII last season without many starters playing a single snap of an exhibition game clearly hasn’t been lost on decision makers.
One byproduct of the shift is several young players battling for roster spots will have more opportunities to showcase their wares.
And Reich made it clear there are still jobs to be won on the 53-man roster.
“This is the NFL,” Reich said. “We fight. Each one of us, each coach, each player fights for his spot every day. That’s really the mentality that we want.”
Reich said Andrew Luck’s continued absence from the practice field this week has no bearing on his potential to start the opener against the Chargers.
But the time clearly is nearing when the franchise quarterback needs to return to the field. Luck hasn’t taken any full-team reps this offseason, and he hasn’t practiced full speed with his teammates at all since July 28.
Reich insists the quarterback’s time in meetings and the film room – as well as the walkthrough reps he continues to take every day – could be enough to prepare him for the regular season.
“You’re talking to a guy who kind of lived that a little bit, where you have to get ready based on those things,” said Reich, who was a backup quarterback for most of his 14 seasons in the NFL. “You’ve gotta make the most of everything that you have available, every resource you have available to you. There’s a lot of science out there that says … Jim Caldwell used to call it putting yourself in the moment.
“Put yourself in the moment. There’s some science out there that suggests you can somehow fool your nervous system to actually think you’re playing in the Super Bowl. And maybe not the whole way, but you can get part way there. We talk a lot about that. We get a lot of value out of walkthrough reps. So we talk about get in the moment. Get in the moment and visualize what this is. There’s a lot of value to that.”
Veteran kicker Adam Vinatieri has been nursing a minor knee injury throughout training camp, but Reich said it’s not a threat to his regular-season status.
Vinatieri, who is expected to resume kicking as early as Thursday, returned for a 24th season for a chance to be with another winning team.
He likes what he’s seen thus far in that regard.
“Guys are working their butts off every day,” Vinatieri said. “The dog days of training camp get long and tiring, but the amount of effort that guys are putting out there every day is really, really impressive. It correlates later into the season, too. You know, stay healthy and get ready to go and we should be in good shape.”