APPLYING THE KNOWLEDGE

S Melvin Bullitt in two seasons has developed from an undrafted rookie free agent to one of the NFL's top reserves. Bullitt started nine games this past season, and said no matter his role this season, that experience should help in 2009.

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Colts S Bullitt Says Experience Gained Last Season Should Help in 2009

INDIANAPOLIS – Times change fast in the NFL, and for Melvin Bullitt, two NFL seasons have gone by more quickly than he can imagine.

"Seems like yesterday I was just making the cut," he said.

Actually it was nearly two years ago that Bullitt made the Colts' 53-man roster despite not being selected in the draft.

He has taken full advantage of the time since.

Bullitt, a safety who signed with the Colts as a free agent shortly after the 2007 NFL Draft, has developed from a relative unknown to a top-level special teams player to one of the NFL's top reserves at his position. And he has done it in just two seasons.

Now, Bullitt – who played collegiately at Texas A&M – said his plan is to continue improving, and that the experience gained this past season is one reason be believes he can.

In the NFL, it is a common belief that players make a huge jump between their rookie and second seasons, but Bullitt said because he played sparingly on defense as a rookie, last year in a sense was his first season playing safety professionally.

He played. A lot. And learned from experience.

And now he said it's time to apply that knowledge.

"Of course they say the first year to second year you make your biggest jump," Bullitt said. "I believe that, too. It's true in college, too – freshman to sophomore year – but this year I think will be a more experienced year for myself, just understanding what's going on and having a feel for game-time situations."

Bullitt's game-time situation has been different than many NFL players – and the reason is he often has entered game time with his situation uncertain.

Bob Sanders, the 2007 Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year and a two-time Pro Bowl selection, missed 10 games last season with a knee injury. Bullitt started in Sanders' place, and Bullitt said often he didn't know until shortly before the game if he was playing.

It's not, Bullitt said, a particularly easy situation. But he said it's one to which he has adjusted.

"It's hard going into a game not knowing if you're going to be a starter or not, but I've learned to be comfortable with it," he said. "I look forward to having a real good season this year, too. It's definitely tough. I've said since I got here that Bob was my favorite player coming in (to the NFL) and he's in my opinion the best safety in the league as far as the way he takes on the game.

"It's always difficult but still, watching the way he prepares and the way he does things on game day, watching film, it makes it easier for me to understand how to go into the game. He helps make that transition easier for me, because whether he's playing or not, he's like, 'OK, here's what you do on this play; here's what's coming . . .'

"It's a lot easier when you have a guy like that to look up to."

Bullitt, who played 15 games as a rookie with 14 tackles, started nine games last season, including eight at strong safety. He registered 69 tackles, a team-leading four interceptions, four passes defensed and a fumble recovery. He also had eight special teams tackles.

Three of his interceptions clinched victories and in the Colts' 24-20 victory over Pittsburgh his one-handed interception clinched the victory on the game's final play.

"Bullitt's one of those guys who makes a lot of plays," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "He's around the ball all the time. He came up with a couple of real key interceptions last year, to end drives and games. He kept us on the winning side of the ledger."

That's high praise, and although that praise doesn't assure Bullitt a starting role at a safery position that includes not only Sanders, but 2007 Pro Bowl selection Antoine Bethea, Bullitt said that's fine. These seasons, he said, are about learning.

And he said there's nowhere else he would rather do that.

"Honestly, right now, I'm in th best spot I can be in," Bullitt said. "I don't think you'd want to be on a team that's 0-16 or 1-15 or 2-14 and start every game when you can learn behind two guys who are Pro Bowl material and you can see what you can be. I'm still young in the league. I hope to play five, six, seven more years. If I can get these years in to learn and get reps in as well, I think that'd be very beneficial for me going on in my career. Its better to know what's going on than to get thrown in the fire and start doing terrible.

"My rookie year, I watched Bob be the 2007 Defensive Player of the Year. He went down in my second year. I go in and I've learned so much from him and my defensive backs coach (Alan Williams) that I was able to pick up some of the slack.

"I think I'm in the perfect situation. Of course you want to start, but honestly, right now, I think I'm in the best situation for me.

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