BALTIMORE — Much has been made about the Baltimore Ravens welcoming back former defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano when he leads the Indianapolis Colts into M&T Bank Stadium for Sunday’s AFC wild-card playoff game.
It’s a similar scenario for Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, who will face the Colts for the first time since the organization fired him in January after he coached them to a 2-14 season.
Caldwell said Thursday that he still has fond memories of, and strong relationships with, members of the franchise where he had spent the previous 10 years before being hired as the Ravens’ quarterbacks coach in February.
“You don’t spend 10 years in a place and walk away from it and not have a [feeling] toward some of the guys you coached,” Caldwell said after practice Thursday. “Those guys laid it on the line for you when you were there. So obviously, you’re going to look at things a little bit differently. You know a lot more people. Ten years in this profession is an eternity. Three years is a long time for a [head] coach. So yeah, it’s a bit different in that regard. But will it make any difference in how we go about the game, how we call the game, how we practice and prepare for the game? Absolutely not.”
The Colts went a combined 24-8 in Caldwell’s first two seasons as head coach and lost to the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV in February 2010. But with four-time Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning out for the entire 2011 season after undergoing neck surgery, the team lost its first 13 games.
Caldwell said he has never thought of what might have been if Manning had been healthy.
“It doesn’t even cross my mind for one second. Not one second,” Caldwell said. “I think for the most part, I believe the good Lord has a plan for us, and often times it’s not as picturesque as we might like it, it may not unfold exactly the way we had planned, but it unfolded the way in which He wanted it, and I’m satisfied with that.”
Caldwell’s tenure still resonates with some of his former players.
“Coach Caldwell [had] been around since my rookie year,” Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis said. “When I first came into the door, he’s been there. This is the first year I haven’t been around him. There is that respect and love for him. That hasn’t gone anywhere and he was our head coach and led us to a Super Bowl. There’s a great amount of respect for Coach Caldwell.”
No one would confuse Andrew Luck with the Washington Redskins’ Robert Griffin III, the Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton or the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson — three quarterbacks who finished the regular season at the top of the NFL at their position in rushing. But that doesn’t mean that the Colts rookie can’t take off when he wants to or has to.
Among quarterbacks, Luck ranked second in the AFC and eighth in the league in rushing, compiling 255 yards. His five rushing touchdowns put him in a third-place tie with the San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick behind Newton (eight) and Griffin (seven). Luck may not be as swift as Griffin or Newton, but his 6-foot-4, 234-pound frame reminded Ravens defensive lineman Arthur Jones of an AFC North passer his team is quite familiar with.
“He’s a guy that makes huge plays, and he’s a fast runner and has a big body like [the Pittsburgh Steelers’] Ben Roethlisberger,” Jones said. “So it’s going to be a good challenge for us, and we’re excited to play against him.”. . .
Fullback Vonta Leach was the only Ravens player to sit out Thursday’s practice. The three-time Pro Bowl pick has been hampered by a sprained right ankle suffered in the first quarter of Sunday’s 23-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.