INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Everyone on the Colts is eager to get the season started, from owner Jim Irsay to rookie quarterback Andrew Luck to every last fan who watched the team suffer through a miserable 2-14 season a year ago.
Indianapolis wide receiver Austin Collie wants to get going, too. But he is being cautious after his third diagnosed concussion since the start of the 2010 season. It came in the second preseason game, and he did not return to practice until Monday as the Colts get ready for Sunday's opener against Chicago.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Collie is "full go." Collie, however, would not say Thursday if he's been fully cleared, saying "there is no definite timetable."
"We're just going to continue to see how I feel," Collie said. "I don't want to make a definite statement of 'yes' I am playing on Sunday, 'no' I'm not playing on Sunday because we still have time. I want to see how things go today, want to see how things go tomorrow and I'll go from there."
There has been a growing awareness of the long-term health risks associated with concussions, and thousands of former players have filed lawsuits against the NFL, blaming the league for failing to protect them from brain damage due to football-related concussions. The league has levied new guidelines to dictate a team's actions when a player is suspected of having a concussion and what tests must be passed to return.
Collie sustained two concussions in 2010, including one in which he was on the Philadelphia turf for 10 minutes before being taken off on a stretcher. Steelers linebacker Larry Foote buckled Collie with a hit during the Colts 26-24 preseason loss Aug. 19.
"I'm grateful that I have fans ... that want what's best for me," Collie said. "But I think me and my family are the only ones who know what's best for me. It's our decision. This is our life, my career. That's really the only opinion outside of my family that I care about, is what the doctors say."
Collie views the concussion like any other injury. Rehab, listen to doctors and return when allowed. Last week, he switched helmets at the recommendation of former teammate Dallas Clark, who dealt with his own concussion issues.
Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said he's not concerned for Collie's safety even though the receiver does much of his work in the middle of the field. Arians won't adjust the game plan or what routes Collie runs. Once doctors clear him, it's business as usual.
Collie said he has thought about the long-term ramifications, but said it's no different than other players with other injuries.
"That's the sacrifice we all knew we were going to make coming in the NFL," Collie said. "When we do get older, there are going to be some aches and pains. Everyone can sit there and say, yeah, but it's your head. But if the doctors say I'm OK and everything checks out, then I'm going to go."
A study this week in the journal Neurology found that former NFL players were unusually prone to dying from degenerative brain disease, the latest indication that repeated blows to the head may cause serious trouble later on. The death rate from Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Lou Gehrig's disease combined was about three times what one would predict from the general population, researchers reported.
Collie is not deterred.
"You don't hear about the players that have the exact same number of concussions that are doing perfectly fine," he said. "Not to mention the things we do know about concussions now and the preventative measures that can be taken that they didn't have previously. I think everyone gets so uptight and excited about really what the old players are saying, well, today's a new age of medicine. We have new studies, new things that are going to continue to help players with their problems. That's also something that I've kind of taken into consideration."
Collie and Reggie Wayne are the only two returning wide receivers on the Colts' roster. Fifth-year wideout Donnie Avery was signed during the offseason. The other six receivers and tight ends have a combined one year of NFL experience.