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Colts QB Gardner Minshew prepares for possible start against Ravens

Former WSU star taking first-team snaps this week

By MICHAEL MAROT, AP Sports Writer
Published: September 20, 2023, 2:45pm
3 Photos
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew (10) throws a pass against the Houston Texans during an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew (10) throws a pass against the Houston Texans during an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) Photo Gallery

INDIANAPOLIS — Quarterback Gardner Minshew joined the Indianapolis Colts knowing the odds.

Yes, he wanted a chance to compete for the starting job. He also recognized Indy would likely use the fourth overall draft pick on its quarterback of the future — and perhaps its present day starter.

Knowing the reality didn’t make it any easier for Minshew to accept that after one preseason game, his former offensive coordinator in Philadelphia and current head coach Shane Steichen declared 21-year-old rookie Anthony Richardson the starter.

Now, Minshew could get his long-awaited opportunity — making career start No. 25 Sunday at Baltimore in place of the injured Richardson.

“You just show up every day and do what they tell you to do,” Minshew said before Wednesday’s workout. “Just get ready with whatever reps you got. I’m here today, they said I’m going so I’m fired up about it and about to do my best.”

The five-year veteran understands this isn’t 2019 when he became a leaguewide sensation as much for his quirky personality and trademark moustache as he was for leading Jacksonville to a 6-6 mark during his starting tenure.

When Richardson clears the concussion protocol, he’ll start.

But nobody can say precisely when to expect Richardson back because concussion-like symptoms can linger and recovery times vary. He did not practice Wednesday and could sit out Thursday, too.

So, for now, Minshew is taking first-team snaps again as he did throughout the offseason and at the start of training camp.

The Colts (1-1) have no doubt, he’ll be ready — if needed.

This is the third straight season Minshew has worked with Steichen, who applauded the way the former Washington State star led Indy during the final three quarters last weekend in Houston. Minshew finished 19 of 23 with 171 yards and one TD in relief of Richardson, leading the Colts to three scores in a 31-20 victory that snapped an eight-game losing streak.

Steichen wasn’t surprised.

“Credit to him, what he does week in and week out to get prepared for games and to do what he did in that game, to come off the bench and have the success he had, it shows how prepared he is,” Steichen said. ” Just the way he operated, it was very impressive. ”

Minshew has provided the kind of solid, steady presence Steichen envisioned when the Colts signed the free agent to a one-year, $3.5 million deal in March. Minshew’s experience in Philadelphia helped him teach his new teammates the offense while developing strong locker room bonds.

Minshew’s work ethic hasn’t changed.

“They have to know you’re ready, that you’re dialed in, that you haven’t been just sitting over there messing around on scout team, that you know the plan,” Minshew said. “I think if you do that, you show you’re prepared and ready, the guys will follow.”

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Minshew got that the old fashioned way — he earned it.

Strangely, though, Minshew may not be the only new guy in the center-quarterback exchange this weekend. Three-time Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly also left the Houston game with a concussion and, like Richardson, remains in the protocol.

If Kelly isn’t cleared before Sunday, Wesley French will likely be lining up between All-Pro left guard Quenton Nelson and right guard Will Fries and in front of Minshew, with whom he’s been working with extensively since Minshew was designated as the backup. There were no hiccups between the two in Houston and French expects more of the same if they’re starting in Baltimore.

“The more work you do with the guy, obviously, the better connection you have,” French said. “So timing-wise, rhythm-wise, you’re on the same page. The longer you’re with somebody, the better it becomes like every single rep.”

Much has changed for Minshew since that breakout rookie season. He’s grown his hair out and added a beard and has won only two of his 12 starts.

But the Colts believe Minshew can win any game, even if that means beating the unbeaten Ravens (2-0) on their turf this weekend.

“He’s just a genuine guy, a leader, and he just loves ball,” receiver Michael Pittman Jr. said. “He just loves it. Every single time he’s in there, he’s juiced up and he’s ready to play.”