A LEARNING EXPERIENCE

Colts second-year defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock said he learned in the past year what it took to make an impact in the NFL. He learned about playing through injuries.

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Pitcock Looks Ahead After Improving During Rookie 2007 Season

INDIANAPOLIS – For Quinn Pitcock, the last year has been about learning.

Pitcock, a defensive tackle and a third-round selection by the Colts in the 2007 NFL Draft, said he learned in the past year what it took to make an impact in the NFL.

He learned about playing through injuries.

He learned the difference between college and professional football.

And mostly, Pitcock said he learned a lesson in the Colts' last game of last season.

In that game, Pitcock narrowly missed a tackle on Chargers running back Darren Sproles. The play became a long touchdown for San Diego and the game became a 28-24 season-ending loss for the Colts in an AFC Divisional playoff.

It also became a lesson for Pitcock.

"I dove and I was a shoestring away from it," Pitcock said during the Colts' recent organized team activities, 14 days of onfield work that concluded in mid-June at the team's training facility. "That could have been a big difference in the game and our season.

"Just things like that – I have to get faster and react quicker."

Pitcock, who played collegiately at Ohio State University, began learning early last season the NFL isn't always easy. He missed the early part of training camp with an injury, which he said slowed his progress.

After that, he worked his way into being a key part of the defensive line rotation.

Pitcock played sparingly early in the season, then saw extensive action late, starting one of nine games and registering 1.5 sacks and 24 tackles, seven solos.

"The plays that he played were as impressive as anybody," Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said. "The more he plays, the better he's going to get. I think he has an idea of how we play now, which was different than he played at Ohio State."

Said Pitcock, "I had difficulty coming in. I came in late to camp with an injury. It took a while to gain the respect of the players here. (Defensive line) Coach (John) Teerlinck was like, 'This is how we're playing. You're not used playing like this. We think you can do it. We see potential in you.'

"Toward the end of the year, I finally started getting more playing time. Toward the end, I was getting in and making plays."

Pitcock played extensively in November and December, and during that period, he had four games in which he had four or more tackles. In an early-December victory over Baltimore, he had 1.5 sacks.

"I was looking at my production per play and it was really up there," Pitcock said. "For the time I was in there, I was very active – if not making a play, around the ball. I felt with the situation I had, I did really well."

Adjusting to the difference between the Colts' system and that which he played in college, Pitcock said, was the major part of his transition last season.

"It's still the same overall concept, but it's played differently," Pitcock said. "At Ohio State, we did similar things. There are a lot more full-on stretch teams in the NFL and with the hash marks closer together, the stretch is a lot longer.

"You have to play the angles a lot differently than in college."

Pitcock said that was part of another adjustment he made, one with which many rookies deal in their first season: the increased speed of the game.

"I learned how much the game in the NFL is evolved," Pitcock said. "It's almost misconceived. It's a lot more leaner, fast guys. It really comes down to who's in the best shape. There's still some power running, but I had to change my whole style of playing. It took me a little while, but I felt like toward the end I was going well.

"That's one thing I'm trying to work on again this year, is my reaction time and speed to the ball."

Pitcock said that's what this past offseason was about – honing parts of his game tape showed he needed to improve. He said, too, a year working with Teerlinck and the Colts' veterans should be a benefit.

"They warn you (about the difference between the NFL and college), but it all depends on what team you're at and what they're looking for you to do," Pitcock said. "No matter what training you had, what college you were in, what place you go and work out in the offseason – no matter what, anybody's going to face some adversity right away. If not, you're not being challenged."

Pitcock said now that he has faced that adversity, and now that he has learned the lessons of a rookie, he can focus on continuing to gain confidence and improve. He said he did that at the end of last season, and said as he enters Year Two there are more gains to be made.

"It has given me a little bit of confidence," Pitcock said. "I know, to a point, that I can keep up with the speed. I am able to make plays, but now I've got to take it to the next level and be more productive, get more of a pass rush and try to be a wild man out there, making plays. It's a lot of little things. I'm always going to be learning. I'm still learning little things about our defense.

"I want to understand the defense even more in depth. Our defense is simple, but you've got to learn your position and get through that. The more you understand the overall concept and what everybody else is doing, the more you can teach yourself little areas where maybe the coach can't always explain to you.

"I barely stuck my toe in at the end of the year. I'm just scratching the surface."

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