A Question-Answer Session with Colts Running Back Dominic Rhodes
Running back Dominic Rhodes, an eight-year NFL veteran and former 1,000-yard rusher, is in his seventh season with the Colts, his first since spending one season with the Oakland Raiders. Rhodes, who in 2001 became the first undrafted rookie in NFL history to rush for more than 1,000 yards when he rushed for 1,104 yards for the Colts, signed with the Raiders as a free agent after helping Indianapolis win Super Bowl XLI following the 2006 season. He rushed for 302 yards on 75 carries for Oakland last season, and in five games for Indianapolis this season, he has rushed for 104 yards on 32 carries. This past Sunday, with starter Joseph Addai and third-team running back Mike Hart out with injuries, Rhodes spent two and a half quarters as the Colts' only available running back. He rushed for 75 yards on 23 carries against Baltimore, which entered the game as the NFL's No. 1-ranked rushing defense. Rhodes this week talked to Colts.com about his return to Indianapolis, his productivity in his eighth NFL season and what football means to him.
Question: You rushed for 75 yards against the Ravens this past week, a game you entered as the backup. How is it that you're always ready, no matter your role, no matter the situation?
A: I think it's just a mindset. I always think of myself as a starter. I know that I can play with anybody in this league. I go out there. I practice hard every week. I learn my plays. I know what to do. Whenever I come into the game, I'm ready to do whatever it takes to make plays. It's just a mindset I always follow. I guess I can say it's also a chip on my shoulder. I want people to know I'm here to play and I'm going to play just like everybody else. You always embrace when you get the opunities. Not that I want Joe to be hurt or Mike to be hurt. I always said I was going to be patient, because I knew my opportunity was going to come. It's here and I'm ready to ball.
Q: Against the Ravens, you had a 38-yard run on which you broke multiple tackles, and spun several times. How much have you heard from people about that run?
A: (Smiling) I'm hearing 12 pins, three spins. I call my brothers and they're coaching me, telling me what I should have done. I heard it was a pretty good run. They're like, 'Man, you should have stayed behind the blockers and took off this way or took off that way.' I'm like, 'Man, I couldn't even see, you know?' It's crazy, but I have fun with it.
Q: The injury situation to running back Joseph Addai is unknown entering the weekend. Do you just take the approach that you have to be ready no matter the circumstance?
A: I do. I take that approach and I'll just go out and handle it how I'll have to. . . In the game the other day, I understood my role and what I had to do. That's what I'm doing now. I'm getting myself ready to carry the rock all game long. Whatever they need me to do, I'll do it. I'm embracing this opportunity and ready to roll with it.
Q: That was an unusual situation Sunday. You just couldn't afford to get injured . . .
A: I thought about that a lot, too. I said, 'I cannot get hurt, because my teammates really need me out here. I have to keep myself together.'
Q: Colts fans have seen you so much over the years. It doesn't seem that long ago you were an unknown rookie trying to make the team. Is it hard for you to believe you're in your eighth NFL season?
A: It is. I don't really feel like it. Eight years . . . I can still remember when I first stepped in this locker room. Now, I'm pushing Year Eight. It goes by so fast. It's a childhood dream and you wait so long to get here and then once it gets here, it flies by. The years go by. That's why you always see me smiling around here. I enjoy it. I enjoy being here with my teammates. I enjoy playing this game. I try not to let it fly by too fast.
Q: You surely have changed in some significant ways in eight years. But in terms of your approach to this game, have you changed? It doesn't seem as if you've ever lost that enthusiasm you had that first training camp in 2001 . . .
A: It's in your heart. Some guys like the game. Some guys don't like the game. I love the game. I'm passionate about the game. This was my first baby – you know what I'm saying? I would do anything for this game. I would play this game as long as I could. It has meant so much in my life. It has done so much for me. For me and my life and where I come from – for those two hours, I'm away. I can be free like a bird and go at it. I don't have to worry about anything else but playing football. I've always been pretty good at it. It gave me escape and at the same time, I was able to be good at it. I love the game. I'm always going to play it hard. I'm always going to play it hard. I'm always going to give enthusiasm. I'm always going to having fun. You're going to see me smiling all the time. I might have a down day here or there, but it's probably because I'm tired.
Q: But it hasn't always been easy for you. You missed 2002 with a knee injury, then spent three seasons as a backup behind Edgerrin James – all the while obviously wanting to play. You have overcome some things, yet you kept on going . . .
A: Don't get me wrong. It has been hard sitting there. I don't think anybody comes in planning to be a backup the whole time. I came here with aspirations of doing all of these great things, but it didn't pan out. Me knowing in my heart that I can be a starter keeps me grinding and keeps me going. When my time is called, I'm going to be ready to go out there and do what I have to do. All you have to do is put me in the game and I'm going to do my thing.
Q: A lot of backs who came into the NFL in 2001 aren't playing anymore. Is it safe to say your attitude and your approach to being ready has kept you in the league longer than most?
A: I think so – that and my passion. People look at me and see how small I am (5-feet-9 203 pounds), but they don't realize how big my heart is and how big my heart is for this game. I'm here and a lot of guys aren't still here. I didn't get drafted, but I made a career out of something that probably nobody ever thought I would, especially being a free agent and coming from where I came from.
Q: Did you really think in '01 you would be standing here in '08?
A: I didn't know I'd be standing here, but I never thought I would be out of this league. Like I said, from the time I was a little boy, I always knew I had a talent to play in the NFL. That's all I wanted to do, was play football. I knew that I could make it. I don't have a backup plan – or I didn't. Now, I do. I never had a backup plan. I went to school for one reason and that was to play football. I knew I was good enough and I made it happen.
Q: Are you a different runner now than when you came into the league?
A: I think I'm a smarter, more-patient runner now. I know when to take a hit and when not to take one. I know on certain runs you have to be a little slower with it and read your blocks out a little better. When I was a rookie, I was watching (then-St. Louis Rams running back) Marshall Faulk. We went down to St. Louis and they beat us pretty bad. He looked like he was just jogging out there, then he would just break big runs. But it was because he was so patient. He was waiting for things to open up. For me, that's kind of where I'm at right now. The game is so much slower to me out there. I'm out there and I know what's about to come here and there. When I was a rookie, I knew nothing. I was just running on all me being a pretty good running back. I think I'm more patient and just a smarter guy on the field.
Q: And now, there's not much you haven't seen. Here you are getting an opportunity again, but there aren't stars in your eyes. Not much overwhelms you . . .
A: The Ravens scare some people, but they don't scare me. Being here with these great coaches and great players here, you see everything. We practice for everything. We know everything that's going on. I've been fortunate enough to play in a lot of big games and play against a lot of great teams. I'm not starry-eyed about anything. I see (Baltimore Ravens nine-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker) Ray Lewis over there and I'm like, 'You know what? Let's go. Let's get it. What's up?' That's my mindset. That's my mentality. That's how it is for me.
Q: And now, with potentially more carries in the coming weeks, this is just another case where you're ready when needed . . .
A: This, for me, is another one of those types of things that when I'm gone from here and you all are still writing, you'll be writing, 'And Dominic Rhodes did this . . .' It's about leaving a legacy. I have little boys and I want them to know when you play this game, be ready at all times. Be ready, play with heart and play fast. Do all the things you've been blessed to do and I promise you, the game will bless you back.
Q: And when it comes to playing for the Colts, for you, you feel like you're home . . .
A: I love it here. I love playing in front of these fans. I love playing with my family. These guys here, this is my family. A lot of these guys are younger, but they're Colts, so they are my family. This is home for me. I know everybody. I know what's coming. I know where to go, where not to go. It's home.