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Ben Smith

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Associated Press
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck says the team has moved past last week’s blowout loss to the Jets.

Colts learning on the job

– So open the closet now, rummage around, start pitching the excuses out into the room along with your treadless old sneakers and your decrepit Jack Trudeau jersey, faded now to the color of Paul Newman’s eyes.

These Indianapolis Colts?

Well, they’re young.

And they’re nicked up, with five of their defensive down seven gimping around.

And Andrew Luck’s played only five professional games that count.

And … they’re young.

That about exhaust the menu, after Jets 35, Colts 9?

A week after the Hollywood-would-have-hooted W For Chuck against the Packers, it was four turnovers and Shonn Greene making like Emmitt Smith, and welcome to the valley on the other side of the peak. In 60 minutes of dreary football, the Colts went from an uplifting 2-2 to a downcast 2-3 – and, well, this is what young teams do, right? Especially young teams that are, you know, nicked up?

What about that, Bruce Arians?

“Injuries cannot be used as an excuse,” the Colts’ interim coach said last week as his team got ready for the Browns. “The Jets are injured also.”

In other words: Pitch the sneaks and the Trudeau jersey and the excuses back in the closet, then slap a padlock on that bad boy. This is no different than last week, truth be told. You employ, as Arians calls it, “the 24-hour rule.” There’s another game in a week, so no dwelling past Monday on what you can’t change now, anyway.

“You fix it, you look at the tape, identify what happened right and wrong and go on to the next day,” Arians says.

It’s what every veteran team knows instinctively, but what young teams have to get pounded into them week after week after week. And so little wonder that the Colts’ locker room took on aspects of an echo chamber this week, with everyone pretty much parroting Arians, if not word for word, at least thought for though.

“Learn from the mistakes and put it behind you,” running back Vick Ballard says.

And over here, where Luck might still have been stewing over his two-interception game if he weren’t, well, Andrew Luck?

“I think like a win, you flush it,” he said. “You watch the film, you learn from the mistakes, realize that it’s a loss, but it’s one loss.

“I know a lot of guys in the locker room were disappointed with themselves. (But) you wallow in misery for a couple of minutes and realize, one game, put it behind us, can’t do anything about it now, try and learn from it, and get back going. I think as athletes, as competitors, that’s what you have to do after every game.”

And if that is Luck channeling Ballard channeling Arians, so be it. You do what works for you in the NFL, and if what works for the Colts right now is rote learning, so be it. Doing it all on instinct will come later; the learning comes first.

“(You) just can’t take anything for granted,” Robert Mathis, one of the veterans, said last week. “There are no gimme games around this league. Just to ride that high from last weekend and come back crashing down – it’s a valuable lesson to learn.”

One of many.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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