A TIME TO GET BETTER

Running back Joseph Addai said he believes he is still improving entering his fifth NFL season, and that organized team activities are the place to start.

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Colts Fifth-Year Running Back Joseph Addai Says OTAs' Value Makes Them Worthwhile

INDIANAPOLIS – Joseph Addai will not say he loves the off-season necessarily.

Now in his fifth NFL off-season, and now very much a veteran leader, the Colts' starting running back said he will not say he dislikes it, either.

Here is what Addai will say about the off-season:

It is very, very necessary.

And it is very much a key to the makeup of the Colts, very much key to what they do, and very much a reason for their recent run of success. In that vein, Addai said the Colts' 2010 organized team activities have thus far achieved what they are designed to achieve.

Preparations for the 2010 season have begun, and Addai said there has been bonding and improvement.

And Addai said that means the Colts have started well.

"We don't play anytime soon, but I think we're heading in the right direction as far as practicing and what we're trying to do," Addai said Tuesday morning following a session of the Colts' 2010 organized team activities, four weeks of on-field, team-oriented activities scheduled to be held through June 11 at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.

The Colts currently are in an eight-practices-in-eleven-days stretch that Head Coach Jim Caldwell said Tuesday is key to off-season development, and Addai said Colts players are well aware of the imance of the off-season. Addai also said he likes what he has seen from the team's rookies in their first two weeks working with the veterans.

"The young guys, they seem to want to work hard," Addai said. "I haven't seen a guy who thinks it's all about them.

Addai, the Colts' leading rusher the last four seasons and a starter each of the past three, said focus in the off-season has been key to the success of a franchise that has won three of four AFC South titles, as well as two of the last four AFC titles.

"You look at football as a family, so you want to kind of gain a relationship with the older guys, the younger guys coming in, and with what you've been doing," Addai said. "You want to carry that on. I think these things like this, even though it's not mandatory, you want to stay on top of those things.

"You want to fix the small things, tweak the little things and try to get better from there."

Addai, a first-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft, rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first two NFL seasons, and made the Pro Bowl following a 2007 season in which he rushed for 1,072 yards and 12 touchdowns on 261 carries.

He rushed for 544 yards and five touchdowns on 155 carries in 2008, a season in which he missed four games and was slowed in several others by injuries, but this past season, he had perhaps the best of his four NFL seasons. He rushed for 828 yards and 10 touchdowns on 219 carries and had three touchdowns receiving and one passing.

He also excelled as a pass blocker, and said late in the season he had one of his better all-around seasons.

Addai, who often has said throughout his four seasons that he focuses less on statistics and more on his overall play – run-blocking, receiving, etc. – said he believes that entering his fifth season, improvement not only remains possible, but is something he continues to do.

"I feel like I'm getting better," Addai said. "Today (Tuesday), I enjoyed myself out there. If you can have fun in the job you're doing, I feel like you're getting better."

That, Addai said, is why after four NFL seasons, he continues to not only attend the Colts' voluntary off-season conditioning program and OTAs, but to focus throughout. OTAs in theory may take away weeks and months that could be spent elsewhere, but Addai said the improvement that can be made during the sessions makes them important.

"In life, you do things you don't have to do," Addai said, "but it can only help you when you come to things like this. I think for the guys who are here, it helps a lot. The guys who aren't here, they know how to go about doing it, because they've been doing it for a while, too. You do get something out of it when you're here.

"Honestly, I don't mind being here. Practice, you think of boot camp or whatever, but it's not like that. It's a learning experience. You want to come out here and do the small things and work hard. It's not, 'Oh, we're trying to kill you,' or things like that. You get tired, but it's not trying to beat you up.

"It's none of those things. It's not a bad thing to be here, and I don't feel like, 'Oh, if it was up to me, I wouldn't be here.''

And Addai said the reality is that there is work to be done in OTAs that has benefit during the regular season. The off-season is a time for gaining strength and focusing on fundamentals, and any start toward that makes end-of-season goals that much more attainable.

"It helps out a little bit, because you can come out and get things done early – handoffs, catching the ball," Addai said. "Those little things, you get done early. You start early now and when you're in the Super Bowl in February, you go back to June.

"You start with the same game plan. You have to have a starting point and for us, this is it."

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