By GEORGE BREMER
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay sent a message via his Twitter account to his team on Monday.
The franchise patriarch apologized to fans for Sunday’s performance in a 44-20 preseason loss against the Buffalo Bills and promised he’d given his “commanders” an “earful” after the game.
The timing was curious, and the message likely didn’t need to be delivered.
The players’ own veteran leaders quickly stepped forward and took accountability in the postgame locker room.
“You saw the score, right? We didn’t play good Colts football today,” wide receiver Reggie Wayne said. “We have to do better. We had some good plays, but we had a ton of bad plays. So hopefully we can correct those and get better for next week.”
There were plenty of excuses if Indianapolis was looking for them. The Colts started the game with 16 players — including starters LaRon Landry, Jerrell Freeman and Dwayne Allen — on the inactive list. Rookie outside linebacker Bjoern Werner was unofficially added after pregame warm-ups, and four more players went down during the game with injuries.
The most serious of the in-game casualties was inside linebacker Justin Hickman. Head coach Chuck Pagano said Monday the versatile defender suffered a Lisfranc injury that will require surgery and likely cost him the season.
“Hick, he’s done an outstanding job for us, and he was having a good ballgame and a good camp,” Pagano said. “Obviously just feel sick for Justin and all those type of things. That hurts us to lose a guy, hurts us to lose anybody, but obviously feel bad for Hick.”
Pagano said X-rays on cornerback Cassius Vaughn’s left wrist were negative, and he is day-to-day. Rookie defensive lineman Montori Hughes left Sunday’s game with a “stinger” and is also day-to-day, and linebacker Quinton Spears could miss a week or more with an injured hamstring.
The Colts did get one piece of good news Monday as veteran running back Ahmad Bradshaw was activated from the physically unable to perform list. It’s unclear whether he will be up to speed enough to play in next weekend’s second exhibition game against his former team, the New York Giants.
Much of the focus, meanwhile, remained on what went wrong Sunday.
Indianapolis’ first-team defense allowed no points and recovered a fumble on its two possessions, and the Colts led 10-3 at the end of the first quarter when nearly every front-line player left the field.
But the veterans said it doesn’t matter who is playing, there’s a standard expected of everyone on the 90-man roster.
After being outscored 41-10 in the final three quarters, the team toward its focus inward.
“A lot of the stuff that happened, we feel like it’s our own fault,” outside linebacker Robert Mathis said. “We shot ourselves in the foot, not concentrating on the mental side of the football. So that kind of was our downfall (Sunday).”
There’s obviously plenty of time to correct the mistakes.
The regular season doesn’t begin until Sept. 8 at home against the Oakland Raiders, and Indianapolis begins its final week of training camp today at Anderson University.
The Colts have three preseason games remaining, beginning with a prime time contest at New York next Sunday.
And there’s one sure way to erase the bad memories of the opener and get back in the owner’s good graces.
“Win,” Wayne said. “Let’s start with that. Let’s win, and like I said, we are going to watch the film, correct these mistakes and hopefully we won’t make the same ones next week.”