INDIANAPOLIS — Coming off one of the best games of his career last week against the Denver Broncos but also a game that left him with a balky knee, Colts cornerback Vontae Davis didn’t want there to be any questions about his status for the AFC Championship game Sunday against the Patriots in Foxborough.
He was listed as questionable on the Colts injury report Friday, but as far as taking the field with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, Davis said, “I don’t have no doubt in my mind.”
Davis has been limited all week in practice, getting a chance to take extra time to recuperate.
“It’s a long season,” Davis said. “It’s just one of those things. Just having a day off of rest, you can make strides as far as your body.”
In his sixth NFL season, Davis emerged as a cornerback who locks down an entire side of the field. He didn’t allow more than four catches to the primary player he was covering in any game this season, according to Pro Football Focus, and the only player to exceed 50 receiving yards against him was Houston Texans wideout Andre Johnson in Week 6.
A week ago, facing Peyton Manning and a Denver Broncos team that had the league’s fourth-best passing offense this season, Manning threw his way 11 times with Davis allowing five catches for 21 yards.
The growth, Davis said, is all part of the learning curve.
“I feel like I put it all together this year as far as preparation and how I approach the game,” Davis said. “That comes with time. I grasped the game really well this year. I took coaching well, coach [Chuck] Pagano, coach [Greg] Manusky, they helped my learning curve.”
Knowing how valuable Davis will be against Tom Brady and the Patriots, Pagano said he wanted to be cautious and let Davis’s nagging issues heal. Pagano did the same with cornerback Greg Toler, who has been limited in practice with a groin injury and also is listed as questionable.
“We’re just taking care of them,” Pagano said. “We’re just trying to make the best decisions to get them to Sunday healthy and ready to go. So it wouldn’t be wise to do certain things right now and risk that.”
Asked if he was confident that his starting cornerbacks would be on the field Sunday, Pagano said, “Absolutely.”
The gradually shrinking role of Trent Richardson disappeared last week when he was inactive for the Colts’ 24-13 divisional playoff win over the Broncos.
The Colts activated running back Michael Hill, who was signed Jan. 6 and spent time on the team’s practice squad in November.
As has been the case since Nov. 16, when starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw suffered a season-ending leg fracture in a 42-20 loss to the Patriots, the workload in the backfield belongs to Dan Herron, who has run away with the opportunity.
In two playoff games, Herron has rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries and caught 18 passes for 117 yards.
Where that leaves Richardson this week is uncertain, even though he vowed earlier in the week that he wouldn’t be benched again.
“Trent’s working,” Pagano said. “Trent’s doing everything that he’s supposed to do and it’ll be a game-time decision.”
For the majority of the Colts, including Luck, playing for an AFC championship will be a foreign experience.
Only 13 players on the Colts’ roster have played in a conference championship game.
In that sense, the experience of 14-year veteran receiver Reggie Wayne is invaluable. He’s played in the AFC Championship game three times and reached the Super Bowl twice. (The only Colt with more AFC Championship games is Vinatieri, who’s played in five).
One thing he doesn’t expect is for anyone to look past this game.
“I don’t think anybody’s been thinking about Arizona,” Wayne said of the site of the Super Bowl. “I think everybody’s been totally forced to just concentrate on the task that’s at hand, and I believe everybody knows what we’re up against. This is not the team to not pay attention to. This is not the team that you can overlook and look to the future or look down the road.
“If we start doing that, then we’re going to get embarrassed and we’re going to be watching with you guys. So it’s one of those games, one of those situations where I believe each week since the playoffs started we’ve just been focusing on that team and preparing for that team, not worrying about anything ahead. So far . . . by us locking in on the team at hand, it’s been a great outcome for us.”