INDIANAPOLIS – Monday dawned in Indianapolis with overcast skies and drizzle.
The mood inside the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center was much different as players and coaches returned from the bye week with the first of six remaining regular season games coming this Sunday against Carolina.
The mindset of Head Coach Jim Caldwell meshed with those of his players in that there is football to be played and there is no time like the present to do so.
"I think it is good to have a little bit of change of pace, but I think it's to each his own," said Caldwell on how different people may have had different approaches to the four-day break. "Some individuals were still in here last week watching film and trying to get a little more studying done in preparation for the upcoming game, and trying to find ways to improve as well. Some guys need the break. Some guys don't want it. Nevertheless, I think overall it was good. It was good for the body. Hopefully, it was good for the mind as well."
Indianapolis joined Houston, New Orleans and Pittsburgh in having its bye week during the latest possible chance in 2011. The team worked on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week before adjourning. Players needed to report by 2:00 p.m. today as preparations for Carolina begin.
The topic most prevalent on Monday was that of the quarterback position. Third-year pro Curtis Painter has started since week four after Kerry Collins exited action with a concussion suffered against Pittsburgh in the third game.
Indianapolis has dropped consecutive home games this month and will conclude the longest home stretch of the season this Sunday against the Panthers. Painter has been taken from the lineup in the fourth quarter of each game, being replaced with seventh-year pro Dan Orlovsky.
Against Atlanta two games ago it came with 10 minutes remaining and with the club trailing by 24 points. Against Jacksonville, Orlovsky entered the contest with 5:55 left and the Colts trailing by seven points. Caldwell was asked if he were ready to identify who would start under center this Sunday.
"Not at this point," said Caldwell. "We'll certainly have an answer on that shortly, in the next day or so. Obviously, we get rolling in terms of our preparation on Wednesday. By that time, we'll have it all solidified."
The outside attention at the position this year has been intense. Thirteen-year starter and four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning opened training camp on PUP and has not been able to play. Indianapolis signed Collins and named him the opening-day starter, only to see the 17-year pro incur a season-ending concussion against Pittsburgh. Painter, a two-game participant in two previous seasons, has had his first extended time with the starters. Orlovsky, signed in training camp and who returned to the club after the season began, had seen only 13 career appearances before playing in three reserve duties for the Colts. Painter has hit 117-of-214 passes for 1,315 yards with five touchdowns and seven interceptions. Orlovsky has hit 14-of-21 passes for 122 yards in spot duty.
Indianapolis turned the ball over on both of its game-opening possessions against Atlanta and on its third play from scrimmage against Jacksonville. The team is minus-10 in turnover differential, with a large part of the situation related to injuries across the board offensively. Still, Caldwell knows what he wants from the position.
"Overall, and it's much like a lot of positions on our team, we just haven't been real consistent," said Caldwell. "We need to be able to make sure we don't turn the ball over. That's the big thing. We have to make certain as a team that we're not self-destructing. That's a big part of that as well."
When asked Monday if he felt he should remain the starter this weekend, Painter said he would like to do so and will continue with the same approach he has taken to this point.
"I guess 'should' is a tough word to say," said Painter. "Obviously, I would like to. I don't know. I'll continue to work this week and get better. We'll find out if anything changes. … I think that will be something that Coach (Caldwell) will handle. I'm going to approach it the same way I always have. If things change, things change. If they don't, they don't."
One specific method Painter uses is to listen as closely as possible to the instruction of those inside the club's facility.
"All I do is take my advice, criticism, compliments, anything from in this building," said Painter. "I kind of leave it at that. I don't pay much attention to outside things. For me, I can't really look at it any differently than I have for the last couple of years, just prepare each week like I will be the guy and try to be as sharp as I can. … I think it's very important (to listen to internal voices). These are the guys you rally behind and hang out around. I feel like I do a pretty good job."
As far as his preparation for Sunday, Painter knows the offense must be more efficient with the ball and with its execution.
"Looking at the last few games, the ball security has been an issue, just taking care of the ball with interceptions," said Painter. "Overall, just being a little more consistent, being able to sustain drives a little bit longer. That continues with practice, just taking that emphasis to continue to get better."
Painter followed football on his short break from action. So did Orlovsky, who said it is part of what he typically does.
"I'm a football fanatic. I try to watch as much as I can and just enjoy it," said Orlovsky. "I didn't see as much as I wanted to this weekend just because I was busy at home. I got to watch some games Saturday college football-wise and watch some games yesterday and pay attention to (things). As much as it's getting away from me doing it every day as part of my job, I still enjoy to watch it."
For him, it is not easy just forgetting about the sport he enjoys.
"I don't think it's easy," said Orlovsky about just getting away totally from it during a bye week. "It's what you do for your living. It's what you put a lot of effort into. It's certainly not easy. Do I think it's beneficial? Yeah. It's good to try to get away, but it's what we do. It's just like any other job."
Orlovsky also joined Painter in saying Monday that part of any success for the club going forward should hinge directly on tending to details.
"Part of it (a successful offense) is a cliché, executing better," said Orlovsky. "Part of being good is doing the boring things routinely well, I guess if you want to call it that. You have to do the same things that don't get seen by the outside eye over and over and over again well. I think the bottom line is that we can continue to do the things that may be perceived to be as not big deals or boring to the outside eye well and better, consistently. I think it's coming out and executing better. Stringing some things together and letting it all hang out."
Additionally, Caldwell was asked about the possible return of four veterans this week, running back Joseph Addai, offensive guard Joe Reitz and tight ends Dallas Clark and Brody Eldridge.
"There is a possibility (he can return)," said Caldwell of Addai. "Last week we rested him quite a bit and let him rehab. We'll kind of see where he is today. Hopefully, we'll get an assessment later on. … At this point he (Clark) is recuperating. He's getting better and I can tell you that for sure. Whether or not we'll have him this week remains to be seen. … Joe's coming along. Hopefully, we'll see an improvement where we may see some type of activity out of him this week. … Brody is making real, good progress. His status is such where it will be day-to-day."