ANDERSON –Austin Collie can tell any listener how quickly things can change in the NFL.
As a rookie in 2009, he was joining a veteran offense that was humming with talent such as Peyton Manning, Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, Jeff Saturday and Ryan Diem. Pierre Garcon was a young wide receiver ready to flourish and even though the corps lost future Hall-of-Famer Marvin Harrison, it still had Reggie Wayne.
Though he would contribute 60 receptions on the way to a Super Bowl XLIV appearance that year, Collie was fresh talent.
Four years later, he is second only to Wayne in experience on the receiving unit, and he has a young, talented rookie signal-caller in Andrew Luck.
In four years, his role has flipped.
"It (the camp) is fun. It is a different responsibility now that I'm one of the oldest guys in the group," said Collie. "It was a bit different when I was the youngest. I went from the youngest to the oldest in the matter of one season.
"It's a little different bit on the field, but it's been fun. It's been fun seeing these young guys run around and how much better they've gotten in the last few (weeks)."
Collie is referring to a group budding with young talent – LaVon Brazill, Griff Whalen, Jeremy Ross, Quan Cosby, Donnie Avery, T.Y. Hilton, Jabin Sambrano, Kris Adams and Jarred Fayson. As he rubs camp stubble, Collie likely flashes back to previous camps. As for this camp, is has been one of progress.
"Offensively and defensively, we have made great strides to get where we want to be," said Collie. "It's definitely been a good camp, but it doesn't stop here in Anderson. We have to keep on going. I think we did a good job of what we needed to take care of here."
The club had 21 practices before having its first preseason game last Sunday against St. Louis. It was a big success as the club posted a 38-3 win and Colts quarterbacks completed 21-of-30 passes for 323 yards and three scores. Fourteen of the 21 completions were to wide receivers, with Collie, Cosby, Brazill and Hilton each having three.
Collie snared a 23-yard scoring pass from Luck in the second quarter to pad the club's lead to 14-0, and Indianapolis never trailed. Collie's ethic and the club's attention to Head Coach Chuck Pagano when he told young players not to be satisfied have helped the team have a good practice week.
The Colts now face a Pittsburgh defense that has been a franchise strength for many years. It is a challenge Collie believes will be a measuring stick for the young offense.
"We're looking to build as an offense," said Collie. "I think this is going to be a great game for us to see the things that we need to work on. Pittsburgh has a great defense, and they're going to do a lot of different things. It's going to prepare us for the season to come. I think any weakness we have, we'll be able to see it, and we'll be able to correct it before the season comes."
On Thursday, the club moved its practice up by five hours to avoid bad weather. Still, the team worked in inclement conditions. Collie echoed Pagano that it was good to get practice in adverse situations as the young team learns about hostile environments and bumps in a schedule it will have to deal with this season.
"It's just another one of those days that is thrown at you and you got to deal with it," said Collie. "I think we did a pretty good job of maintaining the same intensity, that same level of competition given the environment.
"I think it was good practice for us. Like I said, different environment than we've faced all training camp, and I think we did a good job of handling it. There's going to be games this season where we're going to have these elements and we're going to have to deal with it."
A positive sort by nature, Pagano likes seeing how his team will react when situations are not perfect. He liked the practice on Thursday.
"I thought they handled it well. Number one, it always raises your level of enthusiasm," said Pagano. "Kids will be kids, I don't get how old they are, playing in the rain is playing in the rain. I thought they handled it well.
"For the most part, there wasn't a lot of quarterback-center exchange issues. There were a few drops here and there. We dropped some interceptions in the back but it's a good test for us because we are going to have to play in some bad weather games down the road. I thought they handled it well."
Collie is a serious competitor always looking for an edge. He is like many in camp who prefer a closely-knit setting where bonds are formed and crafts are refined. He prefers the setting of a camp away from the home base, though he does anticipate a return to normalcy after three weeks.
"Yeah, I think it's (getting away for camp) always needed," said Collie. "You kind of have no distractions, except football. You kind of hunker down before the season and really get the mindset.
"I'm excited to go home. I'm excited to be with my wife and kids and get a few hours at home to relax and unwind a little bit before we ramp it up. It's therapy. I never minded the (obligations of home), not at all."