Indianapolis Colts

Colts try to quickly turn corner following Luck’s decision

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Reality hit hard as soon as the Indianapolis Colts walked into their locker room Monday morning.

Andrew Luck’s stall was empty, the name plate gone, the era over.

Coach Frank Reich and general manager Chris Ballard started the day with a team meeting to discuss how the Colts would proceed without their newly retired starting quarterback.

Luck’s replacement, Jacoby Brissett, took the podium inside a packed media room, Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton wore a Stanford baseball cap to honor his 2012 draft classmate and then it was time to get back to work.

“In one respect this story is unique and shocking,” coach Frank Reich said. “But it’s happened enough where a team loses a great player, and it galvanizes a team and propels them to a championship.”

The former pastor has a vast array of resources to make the point, some from his own experiences.

In 1989, when Jim Kelly got hurt most thought the Buffalo Bills would slow things down for his backup, Reich.

Instead, coach Marv Levy didn’t change a thing and Reich responded by leading the Bills to three consecutive wins. Three years later, with Kelly out again, Reich won two playoff games, including the greatest comeback in postseason history as the Bills eventually won their third straight AFC title.

In 2017, Reich was Philadelphia’s offensive coordinator when MVP candidate Carson Wentz tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee — an injury many expected to derail the Eagles’ title hopes. Instead, Nick Foles stepped in and led Philadelphia to its first title since 1960.

Then there was the seemingly made-for-TV script from two decades ago when a grocery store bagger-turned-quarterback Kurt Warner took over for the injured Trent Green and led the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl title. Warner was the league’s MVP, too.

But Reich and the Colts know this season is not about the past. They must focus on adding their own, unique chapter to the underdog story to fill the hole in the middle of the locker room.

“I need to be Jacoby Brissett, just be myself,” he said when asked about permanently replacing his close friend. “It’s always been prepare like you’re the starter.”

Outside the locker room, many doubt Brissett can emerge as the next Foles, Warner or even Reich. Brissett went 4-11 in 2017, becoming the starter less than two weeks after Indy acquired him in a trade from New England, behind an offensive line that allowed the most sacks in the NFL that season.

Around the Colts’ complex, though, there are plenty of Brissett believers.

Reich noted Brissett has taken more than 1,200 snaps with the starting unit since April when offseason workouts started as Luck tried to recover from a lower left leg injury.

Plus, he’s working with a coach who has been down this road previously. Reich spent his first decade in the NFL playing behind a Hall of Famer, needing to be ready at every moment. It’s a conversation the two have had multiple times since Reich was hired 18½ months ago.

“From Day 1, I came in and watched all of Jacoby’s film and I said this guy is a top-20 quarterback, this guy is a starting quarterback in the NFL,” Reich said. “This guy is all in, he’s not just checking off boxes. He’s a great leader and I’m excited for him.”

So are teammates, who have embraced Brissett’s hard-working approach on the field and his fun-loving style off it.

As for Luck, teammates universally backed his decision to walk away two weeks before the Sept. 8 season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Some, like Brissett and left tackle Anthony Castonzo, acknowledged Luck let them in on the secret before Saturday’s game. Most, like All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard, said they found out as word trickled out on the sideline.

Luck made his formal announcement to the team in the postgame locker room, just moments before going public with the decision.

Castonzo understood.

“Everybody deals with the pain, it’s when you’re out there and you’re doing something and you feel yourself not being able to change direction or miss a throw in his case,” he said. “It’s when the pain starts to affect your ability on the field is when it really gets to you.”

Most were disappointed with the chorus of boos Luck heard from fans as he left the Lucas Oil Stadium turf for the final time.

“It sucked,” Brissett said, acknowledging Luck was at peace with the choice. “I mean you don’t want to hear that, especially for a guy like that who’s done what he’s done and what he’s been through.”

But it didn’t take the Colts long to move on from Saturday — or the announcement that shocked the football world.

“It’s the same old, same old,” Leonard said. “He’s a great player, we respect everything Andrew does. But now we’re focused on Jacoby Brissett and winning games.”

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Mike Fiers, the Astros whistleblower, says he’s received death threats

(CNN) — Mike Fiers, the Major League Baseball pitcher who was the whistleblower in the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scheme, has said that he has received death threats.

“Whatever, I don’t care,” Fiers said to the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday. “I’ve dealt with a lot of death threats before. It’s just another thing on my plate.”

Fiers, who currently pitches for the Oakland Athletics, said to the Chronicle that he’s not concerned about his safety but that he is always concerned about his family’s safety.

In a November 12 story in The Athletic, Fiers said the Astros had engaged in sign-stealing methods in 2017 that violated MLB’s rules. Fiers pitched for the Astros in 2017, the year Houston defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the franchise’s first World Series. The Athletic’s report with Fiers’ on-the-record comments spurred MLB to launch its investigation, which found that the Astros illegally created a system that decoded and communicated the opposing teams’ pitching signs to their own players.

On Tuesday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred was asked if the league was concerned about Fiers’ safety — and, if so, what steps would be taken, particularly when the A’s play in Houston this season.

“We will take every possible step to protect Mike Fiers wherever he’s playing, whether it’s in Houston or somewhere else,” Manfred said at a press conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“I want to be really clear about this. Mike, who I do not know at all, did the industry a service. I do believe that we will be a better institution when we emerge at the end of this episode, and without a Mike Fiers, we probably would’ve had a very difficult time cleaning this up. It would’ve taken longer. I think we would’ve done it eventually, but it would’ve taken a lot longer. And I have a real problem with anybody who suggests that Mike did anything other than the right thing.”

Regarding MLB protection, Fiers said Wednesday to The Athletic: “I don’t know how they would.”

He added, “I’m not asking for extra security. I’m here to play baseball and I can defend myself, if anything. We do have National League games and I’m going to have to get into the box (to hit) just like everybody else. It’s part of the game. If they decide to throw at me, then they throw at me. There’s nothing much you can do about it.”

He also said, according to The Athletic: “I’ve dealt with a lot in my life. I’ve dealt with people hating me before. I’ve dealt with a lot of life problems. It is what it is. And if someone’s going to retaliate then by hitting me with a pitch, it’s not a big deal.”

There are strong opinions on either side when it comes to Fiers. One of those against him is former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz, who said on Thursday that Fiers looks like a “snitch” for going public on the Astros’ scandal.

“I’m mad at this guy, the pitcher that came out talking about it,” Ortiz said at Red Sox spring training at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida.

“And let me tell you why. Oh, after you make your money, after you get your ring, you decide to talk about it. Why don’t you talk about it during the season when it was going on? Why you didn’t say, ‘I don’t want to be no part of it?’ So you look like you’re a snitch.”

When asked if he might consider returning his World Series ring, Fiers said he currently has no plans to do so unless it’s mandated for the 2017 team to do that.

“I said from the beginning, ‘I’m not away from this. I was part of that team, I was one of those guys,'” Fiers said to the Chronicle. “Suspensions, fines — I’m willing to take as much punishment as they do. If they ask me to (return the ring), it’s not the end of the world.”

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