The Indianapolis Colts are heading to the playoffs for the 14th time in the past 16 seasons. For the franchise and its fans, the playoffs seems like a birthright.
But two new members of the roster, both veterans of the NFL, will be playing late in January for the first time in their careers.
Josh Cribbs and D’Qwell Jackson spent the majority of their NFL lives with the Cleveland Browns, a team that hasn’t even sniffed the playoffs since 2002. That was well before either one of them was drafted into the league.
While fans might take a ho-hum approach to another AFC South banner in the rafters and a playoff experience, these two spent the night reveling in their championship status.
Cribbs came into the league in 2005, Jackson in 2006. The two have 18 years of experience in the league combined.
“I was saying, ‘I can’t cry,’ ” Cribbs told the Indy Star. “‘This ain’t the Super Bowl. Still gotta go back to work on Monday.’ They’re going to make fun of me, like, ‘Cribbs is too emotional!’ It’s my 10th season in the NFL. I’ve been close. It just means so much to me to be able to go to the next level.”
For the new wave of Colts talent, it will be their third trip to the playoffs. Andrew Luck doesn’t know life outside of the postseason and for Reggie Wayne it will be his 12th appearance. Wayne has even played in 18 playoff games, more than a full season.
Jackson struggled for much of his career to rationalize why he was playing when the postseason was so unlikely.
“It got to the point where I was just blessed to be able to play this game and still have my health,” Jackson said. “To me, it’s a bonus to be able to go the playoffs and be division champs and everything that comes with that. I’m very fortunate. I feel very humbled to be able to be in this position.”
Jackson was so excited he forgot to take his AFC South Champions hat off when he went to the shower.
“He was going into the shower with the hat on,” Wayne said. “He forgot he had it on. It just goes to show you how great that feeling is.”
Wayne said he has a display case for every division title hat he’s earned. No players takes the playoffs for granted, even when they’ve been there for most of their career.