INDIANAPOLIS – Kerry Collins has been around enough in his 16 previous seasons to know what is important.
To him, Thursday night in Cincinnati is very important.
Collins is getting the feel for the club's offense and for his new teammates. He just needs a harsher dose by getting on the field. Anything less cannot prepare him more.
"This is an important week for me," said Collins. "I've been grinding hard at it since I've been here. It's one thing to know it in the classroom, but it's another thing to go out there and run it. Every rep that I get, every mental rep that I get, even when I'm not in there, is going to be very important. When it comes to the game Thursday night, I need to just rely on the things that I've learned here in the last few days and throughout the week, and try to execute as best I can."
Collins is playing for his sixth team. After starting for Carolina, New Orleans, the New York Giants, Oakland and Tennessee, he knows what it takes to get ready for the regular season.
Head Coach Jim Caldwell has stated before that this year will be different in terms of roster evaluations and this final preseason game will include a broader scope of personnel analysis.
With Collins signed to help bolster the team in whatever role necessary come league play, he knows action will come soon. He just doesn't know if he will answer the call right at the starting bell on Thursday.
"I don't know. We haven't talked about it," said Collins on Monday when asked if he knew if he would start. "I know I'm going to get probably significant playing time, I would think. Whether or not I start, I don't know."
When the call comes, Collins does not know who will be at his disposal, though Caldwell has said there needs to be the appropriate representation on the field to make the outing have value.
"I don't know that either, but I know for me looking at guys like Reggie Wayne, Pierre (Garcon), and those guys, and Dallas Clark, I mean they're great players. I'm excited to get the opportunity to play with them, if that opportunity presents itself."
Collins is going through the process of learning the nuances of the offense as well as the talents of his teammates. He dressed for the Green Bay game last week knowing participation was not going to happen. He did spend pre-game moving around and getting a preliminary feel for his surroundings.
While some things are new, he has been playing collegiately and professionally for 20 years. Some things are basic in terms of his position and can be picked up again easily, sort of like riding a bike.
"It is. At this point I could hop right back on it, and it's not that hard for me to get back in the swing of things," Collins said. "For me right now, it's just getting this offense down. I think the physical part is there, but the more confident I get with the offense the better I'll be able to execute and make the throws I need to make."
Collins has seen a bevy of teammates through the years and among all the achievements, the people are some of the most memorable things about a career. Collins now is calling former adversaries his buddies.
"I am enjoying this new challenge," he said. "I'm kind of one of those guys that likes new and different experiences, and this is definitely a cool one for me. Just to be in an organization and on a team that I've got so much respect for and (am) familiar with. Being around guys like Peyton (Manning) and guys like Robert Mathis and (Dwight) Freeney and those guys. I'm meeting them under a little more friendly context this time, which is always nice. Just to be here and be in this offense, and see what it's all about from an inside standpoint is really exciting just from being a curious quarterback."
Collins has witnessed Peyton Manning conduct the Indianapolis offense for 13 seasons. He joins Adam Vinatieri on the club's roster as the only players who have been in the NFL longer than Manning. He now gets to see Manning operate from within, and it is something with which he is intrigued.
"It's really cool. For so many years I've watched him do it, and I've always kind of wondered, 'What's he doing?' I think everybody does," said Collins. "Now, to be in it and to see what he does and how he does it is a real thrill. From a quarterback standpoint, I think we all kind of look at this and are kind of envious in a way to just how well he does it, and what this offense is about. To be in here and be a part of it is a really neat experience."
Another experience he likes is not having to face Colts Pro Bowl defensive ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney. Collins remembers past meetings well.
"I know when we played the Colts, the stress level goes up just because of those guys," said Collins. "It's certainly nice to have them on my team. They've been really receptive, as has the whole team. The whole team has been really great, the front office on down to everybody here in the locker room. I'm really appreciative of that."
Collins was asked about Freeney's mode of conduct after being sacked by him in the past.
"He doesn't say a word, doesn't say a word," said Collins. "You just know he's coming back the next play. It is kind of a neat thing because I am so familiar with him, not only the last five years at Tennessee, but before that. I played him a bunch of times. It's neat to be a part of."
As for Collins, he will have other things on his mind come Thursday. While parts of it may be as familiar as a bicycle, there is enough new about the offense to keep him on edge, even with 16 years of previous experience.
"Certainly there will be a little bit of nerves, just the first time running the offense in a game-type of situation," he said. "I'll probably be so wrapped up in what I'm trying to accomplish out there and learning about the game plan and everything that I probably won't have time to be too nervous. I'm looking forward to it. It's (the offense) very involved. It's a lot more involved than any offense I've been in, so I have to be on top of my game."