INDIANAPOLIS – Veteran NFL quarterback Kerry Collins has agreed to contract terms with the Indianapolis Colts as the team prepares to finish the last two preseason games in gearing for the 2011 regular season.
For Collins, this could be the continuation of a career that has seen some tremendous moments. Collins is entering his 17th NFL season after having been the fifth player selected overall in the 1995 NFL Draft by Carolina. Collins entered the NFL after an illustrious career at Penn State, and his professional career has taken him from Carolina to New Orleans, the New York Giants, Oakland and Tennessee.
His career was shaped partially by two connections with the Colts, Vice Chairman Bill Polian and Head Coach Jim Caldwell. Caldwell tutored Collins at Penn State. Caldwell was the quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator for the final five years of his 1986-92 stint at the university. Collins later went on to win the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's top college quarterback as a senior. Collins was the first-ever choice by the Panthers and Polian, who served as the club's general manager until joining Indianapolis as president in December of 1997.
"Obviously, Kerry is a guy who has been around and he has a lot of experience," said Caldwell. "Certainly, he's a guy who has been in a lot of ballgames. He's a guy who we feel can help us in this stage of the game of where we are. He'll be able to come in and give us some added game experience and also, he can still wing that ball. He's got good command of the guys around him and he's a great leader as well. I also was fortunate to spend time with Kerry at Penn State as well."
Collins has enthusiasm for joining Indianapolis, starting with people he has known for years.
"I'm excited to be here," said Collins. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for this organization and the teams they've put on the field over the years. Obviously, I've got some pretty significant history with people in this organization, starting with Coach (Jim) Caldwell. He was my quarterback coach at Penn State for three years. The Polians, of course, drafted me when I was in Carolina. (Wide Receivers Coach) Frank Reich, I played with in Carolina. There's a lot of significant ties here that made it real attractive to come here."
Collins feels fortunate to have a respect and affinity for some of the club's leadership personnel.
"I do. I knew it was going to have to be a special circumstance for me to come out of retirement, and this is it," he said. "I just have a lot of respect for them (Bill Polian, Jim Caldwell) and this organization as a whole. To come here and be able to help out is a great honor."
The Penn State product has been a part of many different offenses during his career, and he knows the Indianapolis offense will present its challenges to learn.
"Every place I've been, there have been different nuances with line of scrimmage work and plays getting called at the line of scrimmage. This is going to be a little bit different," said Collins. "The vast majority of it is done at the line of scrimmage. It's like learning a new language. It might be the same plays, but it's a different way to go about it and different terminology. That's why I'm here. I'm going to grind and get to work. I feel like I will be able to pick it up."
The learning process for Collins will be at a quick pace with the preseason having just two games remaining and the regular season opening on September 11. Still, he feels confident about being ready, if called upon.
"Ideally, you'd like to have a whole off-season, but everybody kind of faced it with the lockout," he said. "There's a solid two weeks before the first game. I'm confident I can get where I need to be to play, if I'm needed to play."
Collins has started 177 of 194 career games and has completed 3,439 of 6,163 passes for 40,441 yards with 206 touchdowns and 195 interceptions. He started seven of nine games this past season with Tennessee, hitting 160 of 278 passes for 1,823 yards with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Collins ranks 9th in NFL career completions (3,439), 2nd among active quarterbacks behind now-teammate Peyton Manning (4,682). His 40,441 career passing yards rank 11th in NFL history and 2nd to Manning (54,828) among active players.
Collins played in the 2010 finale against Indianapolis on January 2, 2011. He hit 28 of 39 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns, guiding the Titans to a late 20-20 tie before Indianapolis won on a field goal as time expired. In sharing the field with Manning that day, it was the first time in NFL history two quarterbacks competed against each other after both had surpassed the 40,000 career yardage plateau. In that game, Collins moved past Hall-of-Famer John Unitas (40,239) in career passing yards.
Playing for the past five seasons with Tennessee, Collins has seen the Colts up close twice annually. He formed a regard for the team offensively and defensively.
"The thing that strikes me the most about playing the Colts is how well coached they are," he said. "Playing against their defense, they're very sound, very solid. They hardly make mistakes. That's one of the biggest things I've seen from their defense. Of course their offense, you look at the list of players they have up and down from Reggie Wayne to Joseph Addai, just a lot of play-makers that stand out. Of course with 18 (Peyton Manning) at the helm, he's the best ever. It will be special for me to be able to play with a quarterback like him."
Collins owns a career starting won-loss record of 81-96. He played from 1995-98 with Carolina, completing 694 of 1,340 passes for 8,306 yards with 47 touchdowns and 54 interceptions. He was claimed off waivers by New Orleans and started the final seven games of the 1998 season. Collins completed 94 of 191 passes for 1,202 yards and four touchdowns. He played 1999-2003 with the Giants, earning a 35-33 starting record and hitting 1,447 of 2,473 passes for 16,875 yards and 81 touchdowns. He threw each of the Giants' 529 passes in 2000. New York won in the Divisional Playoffs over Philadelphia and in the NFC Championship game against Minnesota to reach Super Bowl XXXV against Baltimore. Collins had a two-year tenure with Oakland (2004-05). He started 28 of 29 games with the Raiders, hitting 591 of 1,078 passes for 7,254 yards and 41 touchdowns before moving to the Titans in 2006. With Tennessee, he completed 613 of 1,081 passes for 6,804 yards and 33 touchdowns.
In addition to helping direct the Giants to Super Bowl XXXV, Collins helped take the Panthers to the NFC Championship game in 1996, the franchise's second year of existence. He earned his first career Pro Bowl appearance that year and followed with another one in 2008 while with Tennessee.
After 16 professional seasons, Collins feels spry and ready to jump into action one more time.
"I feel great. I'm 38. I've played a lot in this league," he said. "I feel really good. I wake up every day, and I don't have any nagging injuries that I have to deal with. I'm very fortunate to feel the way I feel after so many years."