INDIANAPOLIS -- The initial reaction was complete silence. The first thought, of course, was on Vick Ballard. The second-year running back cut through the hole in a non-contact drill in practice Thursday when his foot got stuck in the ground.
“Freakish” was the adjective used by Ballard’s teammates and coach Chuck Pagano when they saw him go down.
“Nobody touched him,” running back Ahmad Bradshaw said. “Everybody saw it. They just gasped. He was going through the hole on a team drill. He was trying to weave through the line. His foot got caught in the ground and it happened.”
The Colts’ worse fears were revealed when the MRI showed an ACL tear in Ballard’s right knee. Ballard left the team facility without addressing the media Friday.
“We all know Vick was headed toward having a fabulous year,” Pagano said. “We know and understand injuries are part of this game. We’ll deal with it. Nobody handles adversity quite like this team in this locker room. Vick will get through this and with his mindset and his work ethic he’ll come back stronger than ever in 2014.”
There was a lot of disappointment inside the locker room for Ballard, who led the team in rushing last season and in its Week 1 win over Oakland. But the Colts know there’s no time to sit back and feel bad for themselves. It’s time for that "next man up" mentality that they’ve used when dealing with adversity for so many years.
“Sad to see,” veteran receiver Reggie Wayne said. “Whenever you see, not only your teammate, anybody in this league suffer an injury like that, it’s sad to see. Vick was working hard. I had a little talk with him. I told him, 'I’ve had had the injury before, keep your head up. We’ll fight for you.' It’s just a tough injury, but we all know it’s this part of this business.”
The original plan was for Ballard to team with Bradshaw to give them a formidable one-two punch in the backfield to complement the trio of receivers and two talented tight ends. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said earlier this week that Ballard and Bradshaw were going to split the carries 50-50 this season. The Colts averaged almost five yards a carry against Oakland last week.
That plan is now scratched.
Bradshaw will start in Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins and fifth-year running back Donald Brown will back him up. Rookie Kerwynn Williams will be brought up off the practice squad to be the team’s third running back.
Bradshaw, who signed with the Colts after spending his first six seasons with the New York Giants, sat out the preseason while recovering from offseason foot surgery. He’ll get the bulk of the carries in the backfield now.
“I’m ready,” Bradshaw said. “That’s just what happens when this happens. I’ve been working hard for this. You never know what can happen. Next man up.”
The Colts don’t need flash from Brown, a former first-round pick. They want consistency from him, something that hasn’t been the case in his career.
The last thing the Colts need is for their running game to become the weak link in the offense.
“I think we have all the right components in place in all the right places to bounce back from this,” Wayne said.