Problem is, his happy-handed gesture to cornerback Trumaine McBride was deemed a taunt. Don’t know if the refs caught him chirping to Giants equipment manager Joe Skiba on the bench, too. But it’s the exhibition season, where referees are calling everything in an attempt to adhere to NFL “point-of-emphasis” mandates.
“It was just something I just did,” Nicks said. “I got caught up in the moment.”
Asked if he was hyped for this game, Nicks paused and admitted, “Yeah, I was.”
The bigger problem for Nicks was when he returned to the sideline. Colts head coach Chuck Pagano is a no-nonsense kind of guy and held No. 14’s helmet while scolding the wide receiver for wasting a 36-yard pass play. Yes, the sixth-year pro should know better.
“He kind of gave me some one-on-one talk,” Nicks said of quality time with Pagano. “He knew that I knew better.”
Pagano said: "They're nameless, faceless objects to us. Good football team. We respect all, we fear none, but it's not about them, it's about us and how we handle our business, how we play the game. So it doesn't matter what the situation is, and Hakeem knows. Right after it was over, he knew exactly what the discussion was going to be."
The players said otherwise, but seriously, how much could it matter that the Colts blew a 26-0 lead in a 27-26 loss to the Giants at Lucas Oil Stadium? When the starters played, the Colts led 13-0. At halftime, with some second-teamers mixed in, the lead was 20-0. Fair to say when the guys who mean the most played, this was one-sided.
That made Nicks’ reunion with the G-men all the more compelling. Keep in mind, his last days in New Jersey were rather unkind. Some said he dogged it. Others were convinced Nicks couldn’t stay healthy. The Giants let him hit free agency. After former Giants teammate Ahmad Bradshaw pitched Indy as a great place to play, Nicks agreed to a one-year, prove-it-to-get-paid deal of $3.975 million.
If nothing else, NFL players are motivation junkies. They perceive it any way they can. And Nicks just had to tell the Giants they had made a mistake, however bad the timing, considering you shouldn’t send messages to a team you’re going to play again in a few months — the Colts meet the Giants Nov. 3 on Monday Night Football in East Rutherford, N.J.
“Actually, that was my mistake,” Nicks said. “I really didn’t think they were going to call it, but they did their job. That was my mistake.”
Even without the self-negated, 36-yard reception, Nicks caught five passes for 53 yards as the Colts’ first-teamers dominated on both sides. Quarterback Andrew Luck exited midway through the second quarter with a 13-0 lead. He threw a 5-yard TD pass to his old Stanford roomie, Griff Whalen, in the opening quarter.
Luck was amused by a couple of teammates who accused the quarterback of forcing the ball to Nicks.
“‘They were like, ‘You were giving it to Hakeem on purpose,’” Luck said, smiling. “You get it to the open guy on purpose.”
Luck couldn’t help but laugh at that. Although he didn’t see the humor in Nicks’ wave that resulted in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
“It probably wasn’t the smartest decision,” Luck said. “He knows that.”
When the starters played, the Giants’ Eli Manning looked lost. While Luck completed 12-of-18 passes for 89 yards and extended clutch plays with his mobility, Manning was only 1-of-7 for 6 yards. He was sacked once and saved an interception because of a Colts penalty. The visitors’ biggest play — a Victor Cruz 51-yard catch, didn’t hold up because he fumbled away the ball. The Giants regained possession due to an illegal-contact penalty, the Colts' third such infraction in the opening half.
The Giants had just 48 yards total offense at intermission.
It was the perfect scenario for Colts fans who know the preseason routine. They watched the first half, which culminated with a Matt Hasselbeck 14-yard TD pass to Da’Rick Rogers, then half the stadium emptied. Maybe more than half.
The statistics will show the Giants reserves rallied late to win with an improbable 27 fourth-quarter points. The Colts almost pulled it out in the final minute, but punter Pat McAfee’s 64-yard field goal attempt floated just wide left.
The reality is most of the guys who decided his game in the second half will be looking for real jobs in a few weeks.
It’s just preseason. No big deal. Unless, of course, you have a score to settle.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.