Confident Colts dismiss doubters

Phillip B. Wilson

They might say they don’t pay attention to the outside noise, but make no mistake, the Indianapolis Colts know what’s being said.

Without retired quarterback Andrew Luck, the expectation for what the Colts can accomplish in 2019 has sagged entering Sunday’s season opener at the Los Angeles Chargers.

Pro Bowl wide receiver T.Y. Hilton shrugged when asked about what’s being said about his team.

“We go out there and play the game,” Hilton said Wednesday. “We know what type of team we’ve got. We’re not worried about nobody. We knew they were going to write us off, but the game has still got to be played. We’re going to be there. We’re going to show up and show out.”

It’s familiar footing as far as Colts head coach Frank Reich is concerned. He won’t have to change his message much from a year ago, when in his first season players were reminded that they were counted out.

He was asked if he thinks his players are “ticked off” by that outside noise.

“Yeah, I think so,” Reich said. “Yeah, I think that’s human nature. Hey, as much as everyone loves and appreciates and understands how great of a player Andrew was, we all know that this game doesn’t revolve around one player.

“I think at some level when something like that happens, there’s a mindset to say, ‘Hey, this is a team. We’re a team.’ I think we play off that. It’s not a big deal, but I think that’s human nature.”

The Colts went from being projected as Super Bowl contenders to finishing less than .500, according to some prognosticators. The Chargers are without standout running back Melvin Gordon, who is holding out for a more lucrative contract, but are listed as 6.5-point favorites.

Hilton admitted this team needs to get off to a good start. Since he joined the franchise in 2012, the Colts have won only one season opener, 21-17 at home over Oakland in 2013.

A 34-23 home loss to Cincinnati was part of a 1-5 start last year. The Colts rebounded with nine wins in 10 games to make the AFC playoffs for the first time since 2014, then knocked off AFC South Division champion Houston on the road in the opening round before losing at Kansas City in the AFC Divisional playoff round.

The Colts rewarded Brissett with a two-year, $30-million contract earlier this week, money befitting his change in status as a starter. They also signed free-agent veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer to a three-year, $12-million deal to be a seasoned backup.

“Getting the money, it was well-deserved and he earned it,” Hilton said.

Now the Colts have to earn respect and change public opinion.

“We may be a young team,” said the NFL’s oldest player, 46-year-old kicker Adam Vinatieri, “but we’re mature beyond our age, I think. I really do think that.

“I don’t care how old they are or how young they are, I guess I should say, we’ve got good guys in this locker room.”