Colts RB Donald Brown making most of 2nd chance


Colts RB Donald Brown making most of 2nd chance

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) When Donald Brown was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 2009, the expectations soared.

The numbers did not.

Now, after three mostly disappointing seasons, Brown is getting a second chance to show the Colts what he can do for them - and he hasn't even let a midseason knee surgery get in the way.

``It's just a matter of staying positive, staying confident,'' Brown said Wednesday. ``It (the injury) was frustrating, but you have to realize that `I'm going to come back.' You know it could have been worse, it could have been season-ending, but it wasn't.''

Instead, the often overlooked and overshadowed Brown returned from the torn cartilage faster and stronger than anyone anticipated. The injury occurred Oct. 7 on a last-minute 2-point conversion run that helped the Colts (4-3) complete a stunning rally to beat Green Bay 30-27.

At the time, few even noticed as a wild celebration ensued and the postgame chatter focused almost exclusively on what the win meant for their missing coach, Chuck Pagano, who had just been diagnosed with a form of leukemia. Brown had surgery a couple of days later and missed the next two games.

When he returned Sunday at Tennessee, Brown looked as if he hadn't missed a play. He ran 14 times for 80 yards and was Indy's overtime workhorse, running the ball on six consecutive plays before giving way to Vick Ballard and Ballard's incredible 4 1/2-yard, twisting dive to win the game.

Those who know Brown best expected nothing less.

``I liked Donald coming out (of college),'' said interim coach and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who was with Pittsburgh then. ``I thought he was a hard downhill runner with great speed. He has shown flashes of that speed for us and I love speed. He is more than a professional, he's a top-notch pro. He's more than prepared every week. He prepares the young guys. He's a great leader in his room and he's an explosive player and you can't have enough of those.''

It's just taken Brown longer than expected to become the Colts' primary runner.

Part of the problem was bad luck.

After selecting Brown and essentially naming him the future successor to Joseph Addai, Brown fought a constant battle to stay healthy. He was inactive for five games as a rookie, three more in Year 2 and became a regular on Indy's weekly injury report even when he played.

All along, Brown's demeanor never changed. He kept watching film, trying to improve and picking up tidbits that he figured would be beneficial when his next opportunity came along.

That happened last season when Brown carried 134 times for 645 yards, scored five touchdowns and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. It was the first time Brown played in all 16 games and the numbers were career bests, though his success was again overlooked in the midst of a dismal 2-14 season that gave Indy the No. 1 draft pick.

But when Pagano and his new staff arrived in Indy, they wanted Brown to understand he'd be a key cog in this rebuilding project. At one point, Arians and Brown sat down to talk strategy and agreed to use some of the running plays that had made Brown such a productive runner at UConn.

``His system is very similar to what we ran in college, very familiar,'' Brown said, referring to Arians. ``We were on the same page.''

Initially, Brown and the Colts struggled.

After turning Andrew Luck's first preseason pass, a short screen into a long touchdown, Brown rushed for only 155 yards on his first 43 regular-season carries. In Week 5, following a bye, Brown ran 17 times for 84 yards against Green Bay and produced similar numbers against Tennessee last weekend.

What changed?

``Some of those things we don't do as much anymore because it didn't fit what our offensive line could do,'' Arians explained. ``He (Brown) has adapted to some of the things that they do well and as long as the line blocks well and the tight ends block well, he'll find a hole. He likes the power-gap stuff which he did a ton in college. We wanted to do that, we're still doing some of it, but not as much as we did in (training) camp.''

The other pieces are falling into place, too.

Since Brown got hurt, Ballard, a rookie, has carried 40 for 164 yards. Carter, too, has hung onto the ball and is averaging 3.6 yards per carry, and his late 1-yard scoring plunge last weekend wound up sending the game into overtime.

Suddenly, the usually pass-first Colts are averaging 119.8 yards rushing, and it's made a big difference.

``It's awesome,'' Andrew Luck said. ``When he (Arians) can keep calling runs and be confident in us, it's a lot of fun to be an offensive lineman.''

Or, in this case, it's awesome to be Brown.

``Whatever the situation is,'' he said, ``you just want to make the most of it.''

NOTES: Arians ruled two starters, TE Coby Fleener and CB Vontae Davis, out of Sunday's game. Fleener injured his left shoulder and Davis hurt his left knee in the win at Tennessee. ... At Wednesday's practice LB Pat Angerer wore a boot to protect the right foot he injured during training camp and LB Jerrell Freeman wore a boot on his left foot. Both are starters.


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Jay Gruden shown no love in preseason coaches ranking

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Jay Gruden shown no love in preseason coaches ranking

Yahoo! Sports ranked all 32 head coaches in the NFL and Washington Redskins fans may not be too happy with where Jay Gruden ended up.

Entering his fifth year as head coach, Gruden was ranked as the No. 27 head coach in the NFL. Here's Yahoo!'s rationale behind his ranking:

"Four years, one playoff berth, one plus-.500 season, one franchise quarterback run out of town."

All that is ... not false, but the whole franchise quarterback being run out of town thing is at least debatable. And even if the ranking is fair, it's still okay to be upset because it's the middle of July, training camp hasn't started yet and the offseason is the perfect time to get irrationally angry about things like these.

Elsewhere in the NFC, Giants head coach Pat Shurmur checks in at No. 23, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is No. 17 and the Eagles' Doug Pederson is No. 2.

Unsurprisingly, Bill Belichick was ranked No. 1; he may be the greatest of all time when all is said and done, if not already. The top five rounds out with Pederson at No. 2, New Orleans's Sean Payton at No. 3, Minnesota's Mike Zimmer at No. 4 and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin at No. 5.


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Stroman pitches 7 sharp innings as Blue Jays beat Orioles 4-1

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Stroman pitches 7 sharp innings as Blue Jays beat Orioles 4-1

TORONTO (AP) -- Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman gave up hits to the first three Baltimore batters Saturday.

The Orioles got just two more hits the rest of the afternoon.

Stroman pitched seven sharp innings for his second win in three starts and Toronto beat Baltimore 4-1 for its sixth straight victory over the struggling Orioles.

"He started working both sides of the plate with his sinker and I think that threw them off a little bit, especially late in counts," Blue Jays catcher Luke Maile said. "Overall it was just kind of vintage Stroman."

Baltimore right-hander Alex Cobb picked up his major league-worst 13th loss. The Orioles dropped to 1-8 against Toronto this season.

"I absolutely hate seeing that win-loss in parentheses next to my name," Cobb said. "It's sickening."

Stroman (3-7) allowed one run and five hits. He threw a season-high 107 pitches, the first time this season he has topped 100.

Stroman is 3-2 with a 3.03 ERA in five starts since returning from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss more than a month. He went 0-5 in seven starts before the injury.

"Since he's come back from the DL he's been really good," manager John Gibbons said. "I just think he's pitching like he's always pitched."

Stroman said he's focused on forgetting his early season struggles.

"I know I didn't have the first half I wanted but I've always been someone who prides myself on the second half and finishing strong," Stroman said. "That's something I'll look to continue to do this year."

Friend and teammate Devon Travis likes what he's seen from Stroman since the right-hander returned from injury.

"He's got that fire back," Travis said. "He's really under control. I think he's locking in on every single pitch."

Seunghwan Oh worked the eighth and Ryan Tepera finished for his seventh save in 12 opportunities.

Baltimore scored one run or fewer for the 27th time, the most in the majors.

The first three Orioles batters all singled, although Jonathan Schoop was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double. After Adam Jones gave Baltimore a 1-0 lead with an RBI hit to right, Mark Trumbo grounded into an inning-ending double play.

The Blue Jays answered with a three-run fourth against Cobb, taking advantage of a key Orioles error.

Justin Smoak opened the inning with a walk and, following a video review, was ruled safe at second after Cobb's high throw pulled shortstop Tim Beckham off the base on at attempted force play.

"That's not it in a nutshell but I can understand why that's the focus, a play we haven't been making," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Randal Grichuk followed with an RBI double, a second run scored on Diaz's double play grounder, and Maile capped the rally with an RBI single.

Diaz had four hits Friday, including the game-winning single in the 10th. He went 2 for 3 Saturday with a pair of singles.

The Blue Jays made it 4-1 in the fifth when Teoscar Hernandez doubled, advanced on a fly ball and scored on Cobb's balk.

Cobb (2-13) lost his sixth straight decision, allowing four runs, one earned, and four hits in five innings. Showalter said Cobb was removed to avoid worsening a blister on his pitching hand.

"I was only going to have a few more pitches going into the sixth so he felt like the risk-reward was not really worth it," Cobb said.

Grichuk made the defensive play of the game, a running catch on the warning track in left center to retire Trumbo for the first out of the ninth.


Jones and Chris Davis got stuck in an elevator at the team's downtown hotel following Friday night's defeat. Jones documented much of the saga on Instagram. The players and fellow passengers were eventually rescued by Toronto Fire Services staff. The sound system at Rogers Centre played a few bars of Aerosmith's `Love in an Elevator' before Jones batted in the fourth inning Saturday.


Toronto won without hitting a home run for just the third time in 26 games this season.


Orioles: Baltimore is expected to demote a reliever when RHP Andrew Cashner (neck) is activated off the 10-day disabled list Sunday.


Cashner (2-9, 4.56) last pitched July 10, when he allowed five runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings against the Yankees. Blue Jays LHP J.A. Happ (10-6, 4.29) is 0-3 with a 9.75 ERA in three July starts.