Colts Rookie Running Back Donald Brown Continues to Adapt to NFL
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – The crowd roared – really, really roared. Donald Brown turned and laughed.
Because while the roar at Colts 2009 Training Camp wasn't for the first-round rookie running back, it did provide an answer to a question Brown had just been asked.
How are things different in the NFL?
The answer came from the roar, because the roar was for three-time Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning, the Colts' 12-year veteran quarterback who drew thunderous cheering from fans at training camp when he walked toward them to sign autographs.
Well . . .
"That's different," Brown said with a laugh between a pair of training camp practice at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
Brown, the Colts' first-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft from the University of Connecticut, said as far as how things are different – and how he is progressing – on the field, not much has changed in the first week and a half of camp. Camp, he said, is camp. He's working hard, trying to learn.
And it is there where Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said Brown thus far is excelling.
"Donald has been very, studious," Caldwell said. "He's done things in a very, very professional manner. He's a very, very mature guy for his age, particularly for his first year in the league, just in terms of how he goes about his preparation on a daily basis – it's outstanding.
"I think that's going to pay dividends."
Caldwell said on Wednesday Brown thus far has acquired a broad understanding of the Colts' offense, and "he has been able to keep the pace when the speed has been quickened a bit."
"We're pleased with where he is right now," Caldwell said.
Said Brown, "It's obviously faster. You're playing against the elite of the elite, so you just have to keep up the pace. It's no problem. You just have to adapt.
"It's all about adaptation."
Brown, college football's lone 2,000-yard rusher last season, said through a week and a half of camp it is difficult to precisely gauge his progress. He said he is working hard and doing what any NFL rookie should do – trying to improve every day and preparing for a 16-game regular season.
"I'm in the playbook as much as possible," Brown said, who said he has benefited from assistance from not only from 2007 Pro Bowl running back Joseph Addai, but from Manning.
"He's a great leader," Brown added. "He makes you want to strive to be the best."
While many rookies talk about the difference in the speed of the game, Brown said his biggest adjustment is learning the Colts' complex system.
"It will come," he said. "I feel pretty confident in my ability to get the playbook down. Obviously, there's more I have to learn, but right now, I'm pretty confident."
Addai, a 1,000-yard rusher his first two seasons, rushed for 544 yards and five touchdowns on 155 carries last season. Brown rushed for 2,083 yards and 18 touchdowns on 367 carries, and while Addai remains the starter, Caldwell said Wednesday the Colts historically have played two backs extensively.
"We anticipate the same thing will happen with the backs of the present as well," Caldwell said.
"It is what it is," Brown said. "You can't worry about those situations. You just have to go out there and when your number is called and the opunity arises make the most of it and give everything you've got. . . .
"I think I put more pressure and more expectations on myself than anybody puts on me," Brown said. "I hold myself to high standards. I just try to do my best to live up to those standards day in and day out.
"I just want to contribute anyway possible. However they need me, I'm ready to go."
Brown said while he has thought some about his NFL debut, which will take place Friday in the Colts' preseason opener against Minnesota at Lucas Oil Stadium, he doesn't know exactly what to expect.
"You don't know until you're there," he said. "In college, I realized you practice hard and you practice at a higher rate, the game seems to be a little bit slower and starts to come a little bit more. So, I just try to practice the way I play and hopefully it will be the same.
I'm sure I'll be nervous, anxious – it will be a little combination of things. You just need to keep your emotions under control and the biggest thing is just to have fun.
"I've played this game for 12 or 13 years. It's football. It's football."