INDIANAPOLIS – Some players get a label attached to them because of certain type of performance history.
Delone Carter joined Indianapolis last year as a fourth-round pick, and some tried to place a label on him even before he set foot on campus at Anderson University for training camp.
The 5-9, 225-pound back was seen by some on draft day as the answer to the club's third-and-one situations that had proven troublesome in the past.
Without the benefit of spring work because of a lockout last year, Carter was hit with the question almost as soon as he alighted from his car at camp. He just grinned and went to work.
Over the course of his rookie season Carter handled that role along with others. He started three of 16 games and had rushing attempts in all but one outing. Carter totaled 377 yards on 101 rushes, along with having two touchdowns. His attempts and yardage totals ranked third on the club, while his touchdowns were second.
Like any player, his first year was a learning process, and Carter aims to keep an upward growth path as he enters his second season. The rigors of a difficult record also added to his first-year experiences.
"Just looking at the whole season and what we went through, we had to grow fast and together to deal with the situation (of losing)," said Carter. "I feel like the only way we can go from last year is up, so it has put a lot of confidence in me actually.
"I definitely feel I can grow from last season. In my college career, we went through some rough earlier times and my second two years we ended up getting better and going to a bowl game my last year. Last year (with the Colts) was not something that I hadn't dealt with before. I didn't like it, but it didn't phase me that much. You have to keep working."
Carter did perform some of the short-yardage duty for the club last year, converting six-of-10 third-and-one opportunities. His 60.0 percentage ranked 16th in the AFC, first among rookies, and he trailed only Carolina quarterback Cam Newton and New Orleans running back Mark Ingram among all NFL rookies.
Carter and Donald Brown were the only backs to play in 16 games. Joseph Addai missed four outings and was limited to a large degree in at least two other games. Still, the Colts rushed for a 4.2 average, the team's first 4.0 seasonal average since 2006, when it won the Super Bowl. Carter's average tied Addai for second-best on the team (minimum 100 attempts), and he had a long rush reaching double digits in six different games. Among Carter's 89 yards at New Orleans was a season-long 42-yard effort.
"I really enjoying the playing time I got, but I was not satisfied by any means," said Carter. "I was pleased with it, but I know I can contribute much more."
The club's rushing average ranked in the middle of the league and with Carter's assistance, Indianapolis showed an ability to move the ball on the ground. What hurt the chances to do so was that the club incurred first-half deficits of 20 or more points four times and faced double-digit deficits in 12 different outings. The Colts also went an eight-game stretch without leading in a game.
Carter kept a positive approach and notes there is room for him to do more.
"I definitely feel I have a lot to contribute to the offense," said Carter. "I got a few chances to do that last year, and I need to find a way to stay out there. I think I have the qualities to do the job. I can build on last year and do whatever is asked of me. I can do more (than I did last year)."
He was playing in a backfield mix with Addai, a sixth-year pro, and Brown, a third-year performer, and Carter liked the camaraderie with his established teammates.
"It was a competitive environment with Joseph Addai and Donald Brown, but they always did everything they could to help bring me along," said Carter. "If there were any questions I had, they were there for me. They were good veterans and guys you could look up to. I enjoyed their help."
Carter was working with a position coach, David Walker, who also was in his first year in Indianapolis. Carter liked the direction Walker gave.
"Coach Walker taught me a lot last year," said Carter. "The way he goes about teaching is good. He teaches you every aspect of the position and how to play it correctly. He prepares you for the situations you will face. He prepares you and when you see them on the field, you are comfortable and play through them."
Carter cited his touchdowns as a couple of the high moments during his rookie year. He also pinpointed the need to secure the football as something that must be improved. He does feel his second time around will allow him to feel more at ease than did being a rookie in 2011.
"It will make me feel much more comfortable and much more accepted," said Carter. "When you're a rookie, you really don't feel like you know anybody yet. You really haven't formed those close relationships with everybody. That will be a good thing for this year."