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INDIANAPOLIS — Now, the fun begins.
Sometime today, the Indianapolis Colts’ 53-man roster will be finalized. Regardless of who is, or is not, on it, 2013 should be a thrill ride.
After all, what should have taken at least a couple of years took less than one. Rebuilding? That’s over. Or least the heavy construction is.
No waiting for the playoffs. The Colts were in last year. They should go even further this year.
That’s the expectation. Not just here, but around the NFL.
For better or for worse, they are in the spotlight. The question is, will they thrive — or wilt — in it?
In theory, it would be the former. The young guys who exceeded any and all expectations, i.e. Andrew Luck, Dwayne Allen, T.Y. Hilton, Vick Ballard, etc., are a year older and wiser. New guys, like Ahmad Bradshaw, LaRon Landry and Darrius Heyward-Bey, are accomplished veterans who constitute an immediate upgrade.
Even Chuck Pagano, first-time head coach last season, is officially a veteran.
Moreover, having beat leukemia, he’ll be here the entire season, not a tiny fraction of it.
How can the Colts not be better?
No one is calling this a rebuilding project, even though it really is. A highly successful one, to be sure, and well ahead of schedule. But the Colts are by no means a finished product.
With so many young players still learning their craft, Indianapolis is still a work in progress.
Then there’s the very nature of the NFL itself. It is not a static league. Dynasties rise and fall. Teams improve and decline from year to year. If the Colts can rise from the ashes of 2-14 to the playoff standard of 11-5 in the blink of a draft, others can, too.
In short, Indianapolis won’t be the only team to enjoy growth. Others will, too.
That will be important to keep in mind in the event the Colts don’t get off to the roaring start fans anticipate. Just because they should be better than most of their opponents doesn’t mean they will be better.
Have we mentioned injuries?
Yeah, those can wreck a season, too (see Peyton Manning, 2011).
None of this is intended to throw cold water on anything. Barring mass injuries, or one that costs the services of Luck, the Colts should enjoy another playoff season. With emphasis on should. Everything is trending in the right direction, but the NFL is a league of no guarantees. No matter your past.
Just because you were, say, 10-6 in 2010 doesn’t mean you won’t be, say, 2-14 in 2011 — no matter how many Pro Bowlers are on the roster.
Just because you where, say, 11-5 in 2012 doesn’t mean you won’t be the inverse in 2013 — especially when you aren’t sneaking up on anyone.
That’s what makes 2013 such an intriguing season for the Colts. Are they on the cusp returning to former glory? Will they be Super Bowl contenders? Will they even make the playoffs?
We’ll know soon enough. But whatever the answer is, it is important to remember that the Colts are rebuilding, whether the term is taboo or not. Players are still learning. Coaches are still learning. Pieces are still being put in place. But progress is, undeniably, ahead of schedule.
Way ahead of schedule.
Let the fun begin.
Rick Morwick is sports editor of the Daily Journal, a sister paper to The Republic. Send comments to email@example.com.
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