INDIANAPOLIS — The playoffs can't start soon enough for the Colts' Donnie Avery. Five years after being the first receiver taken in the 2008 draft (33rd overall), he will make his postseason debut at Baltimore on Sunday.
"It's like starting the season all over again," he said Friday, smiling. "It's got my juices flowing again."
The veterans who have been in the playoffs before will explain this is the way the playoffs are: exciting and nerve-racking at the same time.
And Avery isn't the only Colt going through this experience for the first time. Of the 53 players on the roster, 28 have never played in a playoff game. Only nine are rookies, including QB Andrew Luck. The others include LB Jerrell Freeman, who had a team-high 203 tackles after arriving from Canada; CB Cassius Vaughn, who spent the past two seasons in Denver but didn't get to play in either of its postseason games last season; and CB Vontae Davis, who spent his first three seasons with Miami.
"It's a special moment," Davis said. "My brother, Vernon Davis of San Francisco, he went to his first playoffs last year. He said it's a great feeling, a great experience. I asked him for any tips, and he just said, 'Play harder.' "
Some of the veterans have had the ultimate playoff experience. LB Dwight Freeney, LB Robert Mathis, S Antoine Bethea, K Adam Vinatieri and WR Reggie Wayne own Super Bowl rings. Coach Chuck Pagano went to the playoffs multiple times while the Ravens defensive coordinator. His advice is simple. "We know the energy is higher," Pagano said. "But don't get caught up in all that stuff. Do what you've been doing."
More Colts: Starting LG Joe Reitz will sit out because of a concussion. He was kicked in the head during an extra point in Sunday's regular-season finale against the Texans. Jeff Linkenbach likely will replace him.
Bengals: S Chris Crocker hasn't practiced this week because of a sore quad and is doubtful for today's wild card game against the Texans. If he doesn't play, Nate Clements or Taylor Mays will start. RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who sat out Sunday's regular-season finale against the Ravens with a hamstring injury, is probable.
Ravens: As LB Ray Lewis prepares to play what could be his final game — he said this week he will retire when Baltimore's playoffs are over — S Ed Reed said he is "not in that mind-set." Reed, 34, has pondered retirement the past few offseasons and can become a free agent after this season.
Texans: LB Tim Dobbins, who started six games, went on injured reserve with an ankle injury. His absence likely means former Bucs LB Barrett Ruud will start today against the Bengals.