INDIANAPOLIS -- Chuck Pagano couldn't hold back anymore. The Indianapolis Colts coach is always one of the most optimistic people around, but his positive nature took a turn late Thursday morning at the conclusion of training camp.
All it took was a simple question about the Colts' ongoing injury problems to turn Pagano's mood sour. That's when he hopped on his "soap box" and talked for two minutes straight without interruption.
"You would like to have them all out here," he said. "But you have to work and practice. My hat goes off to all the guys that are here and have practiced and pushed through. There are some guys out here who are practicing that are really hurt. Kamar Aiken's come in here and he's ran as much as anybody. And he's a warrior. ... Young Nate Hairston, he's battling something. He didn't want to come out. He's pushing through. Guys have to push through.
"We're looking at everything, making sure we're dotting i's and crossing t's. Got them all in here doing a 45-minute post-practice recovery session, doing rollers and nutrition. It's sleep, it's hydration, it's everything. There's no offseason [program] anymore. We've got nine weeks to try to develop guys. The pros figure it out. The young guys, they don't have a clue. We have them for nine weeks and then we have to cut them loose for five and can't do anything with them. Can't talk football with them. Can't tell them what to put in their bodies. And we have to trust that they are doing the right thing so when they come back in five weeks, if they haven't done what they're supposed to do, there's a good chance you're going to pull [a muscle]. A really good chance. So, it's on all of us."
Pagano's attitude about the constant injury problems is understandable because important Colts players continue to get injured. Quarterback Andrew Luck's shoulder surgery recovery has been well documented for the past seven-plus months, but the list has remained steady throughout offseason workouts and the two-plus weeks of the training camp. Center Ryan Kelly is the latest Colts player who will miss time; he'll be out the next 6-8 weeks after having foot surgery Friday.
Here's the list of other players who are currently out or have missed time with injuries:
WR Donte Moncrief (shoulder)
WR Phillip Dorsett (hamstring)
WR Chester Rogers (hamstring)
TE Erik Swoope (knee)
OL Joe Haeg (burner)
OL Brian Schwenke (foot)
RB Marlon Mack (shoulder)
CB Rashaan Melvin (groin)
DL Johnathan Hankins (ankle)
LB Jon Bostic (finger)
LB Sean Spence (hamstring)
LB Antonio Morrison (groin)
S Malik Hooker (shoulder)
At least 10 of those players are expected to be starters or key contributors for the Colts this season. Pagano was asked specifically about Dorsett and Moncrief, two talented but injury-prone receivers, and he repeated three times, "We need them out there."
This isn't how things were supposed to go for the Colts as they try to rebound from back-to-back disappointing 8-8 seasons. But things don't always go as planned, and the frustration has started to show.