Colts quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was much sicker than we thought

Zak Keefer
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Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (8) reacts to the victory at the end of an NFL football game Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. The Colts won the game, 27-20.

So, an update: Matt Hasselbeck still isn’t back to 100 percent.

It now has been 26 days since the Indianapolis Colts’ backup quarterback ate the chicken burrito that led to his bacterial infection that led to him admitting there was “lots of stuff coming out of the attic, then a lot of stuff coming out of the basement.” It was early October, Andrew Luck’s throwing shoulder was sore, and Hasselbeck didn’t have a choice.

He had to play. So the 40-year-old, 18-year NFL veteran slogged through the effects of food poisoning and dug deep enough to deliver his team two much-needed wins over Jacksonville and Houston.

What no one knew at the time: how miserable Hasselbeck truly was. How he probably shouldn’t have been on an NFL field at all. Or even in the stadium. During the win over Jacksonville on Oct. 4, Hasselbeck raced to the locker room at halftime, expecting to get sick. That’s when he started to sense something was really, really wrong.

“I was like, ‘Did I get hit really hard in the game? It felt like my head was pounding,” he said. Then his stomach went south.

It was just starting. It was going to get worse.

By late in the game, Hasselbeck was suffering through cold sweats on the sideline and chugging Pepto-Bismol. Teammates tried to console him, telling him he was “just nervous.” Hasselbeck may have not started a game in almost three years, but he wasn’t nervous. The man has made 154 career starts in the NFL. He's a veteran. That wasn't the problem.

“I wanted to fight them for saying I was nervous,” Hasselbeck joked.

Shortly after the come-from-behind, 16-13 overtime win, and before his postgame news conference with the media, Hasselbeck had to race to the restroom and hurl up his breakfast. It grew worse. His drive home from the stadium that afternoon required a detour to a nearby restroom.

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He took intravenous fluids in his arm every day between the two victories, spent Monday night that week in the hospital until 2 a.m, practiced just once all week, then gutted the Colts to a 27-20 triumph. He had IVs every day for a week afterward and a colonoscopy this past week.

And he’s still not completely out of the woods.

“A really crazy, weird, unpleasant, fun couple of weeks,” Hasselbeck said Wednesday. “I’m thinking either tomorrow or Friday I’ll start to really feel like myself again.”

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) hugsMatt Hasselbeck (8) following their 27-20 win over the Houston Texans. The Indianapolis Colts play the Houston Texans Thursday, October 8, 2015, evening at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX.

The full prognosis for Hasselbeck’s bacterial disease caused by poultry, acquired from a chicken burrito he scarfed down the Friday night before the team’s win over Jacksonville, was four weeks of recovery and an endless line of IVs. The IVs aided his hydration but didn’t combat the disease well enough. Hasselbeck was sick as a dog when he made those two starts, especially in Houston.

“With this, using IVs is like trying to clean off a muddy shoe with a splash of water,” he said. The splash of water didn’t work.

The night before the game, Hasselbeck was so ill he had Luck speak for him at the team meeting.

“He didn’t look good, man,” lineman Joe Reitz said a day later. “He was sitting there like a zombie.”

“Looked like warmed-over death,” kicker Adam Vinatieri added.

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Hasselbeck confirmed that if he couldn’t go that Thursday – Luck was ruled out earlier in the day – the team would’ve started Josh Johnson, who was signed, released and signed all within the five days prior.

It’s a good thing Hasselbeck did play. Those two victories are the reason the Colts sit atop the woeful AFC South and still have a fighting chance at the playoffs.

In the two games, Hasselbeck went 33-for-43 for 495 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He became just the 11th NFL quarterback over the age of 40 to start and win a game.

And, lastly, if you’re wondering, the answer’s no. Hasselbeck hasn’t touched a chicken burrito since.

“Not even close,” he said, smiling.

Call Star reporter Zak Keefer at (317) 444-6134. Follow him on Twitter: @zkeefer.

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