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Colts rookie quarterback Curtis Painter is looking forward to getting back on the field. Also, a spotlight on the significant contributions from the team's 2009 rookie class.


Rookie Quarterback Looking Forward to Getting Back on the Field

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning knows as well as anyone just how tough it is to be a rookie quarterback.

Now in his 12th season, Manning committed his share of mistakes just like any other first-year player during his rookie season back in 1998.

The three-time MVP said Wednesday that after Colts rookie quarterback Curtis Painter's debut last Sunday against the New York Jets, he thinks the first-year signal-caller is going to be just fine.

"I think he's in a good frame of mind," Manning said of Painter. "It was a tough first experience for him. I definitely thought it was a tough situation for him to enter into a game. (But) I think he'll be better for it."

Painter came in against the NFL's top defense last Sunday and completed 4-of-11 passes for 44 yards and one interception, highlighted by a 22-yard pass to tight end Tom Santi. His veteran teammate said he would benefit from the first experience.

"I think everybody wants their first experience to be positive," Manning said. "I certainly wanted mine (to be), and mine wasn't either. I do think that you are better from the experience. I think he'll benefit from it. I think the whole team can benefit from it."

Painter said he is looking forward to getting back on the field this Sunday.

"I'm excited. Hopefully, I'll get that opportunity," he said. "I'm still not sure if that will or what the breakdown of minutes will be, but should I get the opportunity I'm excited to go out there and get back on track."

The rookie said his teammates, including Manning, have told him, "It's a new week."

"You just have to focus in on the game at hand," he said. "This week we have the Bills, so it will be a tough opponent. But we are just trying to get back on track and get a win."

The 14-1 Colts have benefited significantly from rookie play all season, and running back Donald Brown, wide receiver Austin Collie, defensive back Jerraud Powers and punter Pat McAfee have seen extensive time, in particular.

Last week, in his first game in three weeks, Brown, the team's first-round pick, carried the ball a career-high 15 times for 22 yards and one touchdown.

"I think Donald certainly showed some flashes," Caldwell said. "It was good that he was able to get back in there and carry the ball for us a little bit."

Brown's one-yard rushing touchdown came in the third quarter, but the running back also caught a pass out of the backfield for 12 yards and a key first down against the Jets.

"He had a big third-down conversion with the catch and run, and I think he showed some flashes (and) had some decent runs," Caldwell said. "Overall, when you look at his numbers, they weren't great, but he had some pretty key runs. The goal line run was a heck of a run to get in there for a touchdown. He did some nice things for us."

Collie, the team's fourth-round pick, has played in every game this season, totaling 59 receptions for 661 yards and seven touchdowns.

"Collie has really come in and filled a void that we had, just in terms of someone being able to play and play effectively in the slot," Caldwell said. "It was a position we weren't quite certain of how it would end up. We knew we would have a pretty good player there, but to have a rookie perform the way he has performed is pretty unique."

The Colts coach attributed the rookie's success to his work ethic, the way he studies and his ability to adapt.

"He keeps getting better. I think early in the season whenever we talked about him I'd always add a little caveat, 'But, he has to keep getting better.' He's continued to do so. He catches the ball. He's been good in terms of his run support blocking. All around, he's been a good, solid player, and he keeps getting better. That is key."

On defense, the Colts have received contributions from several rookies this season, including defensive back Jacob Lacey and defensive tackle Fili Moala. But Powers might be the most instrumental first-year defensive player of all.

"He is a guy that is mature beyond his years in every aspect," Caldwell said. "He is a very settled individual, very focused. He's conscientious and obviously skilled physically. But a guy that is always thinking and always seems to be in the right place at the right time."

Powers has started in 12 games this season, registering 66 tackles and one interception.

"He, too, followed the classic example of an individual that keeps getting better week-in and week-out," Caldwell said. "He's had a little bit of a setback here as of late, but he'll back, and we anticipate he'll play even better than he's played previously."

And on special teams, another player who continues to improve is punter Pat McAfee, whom called described as "tremendous."

In addition to punting, McAfee also handles holding duties on field goals and extra-point attempts.

"That is very difficult for a guy in his first year, to do what he has been able to do," Caldwell said.

On kickoffs, McAfee has become a threat to routinely kick the ball into the end zone for touchbacks, something the Colts have not had in recent years.

"That certainly does indeed help our defense," Caldwell said. "It makes a team have to drive 80 yards to score. The more often you can do that, make them go the long haul, it's going to help you get them stopped."

Caldwell said none of his rookies have hit "the proverbial wall" and do not get nervous in big situations. Not only have they helped the Colts go 14-1, but the rookies also have been doing something else to their coach's please.

"They continue to get better," Caldwell said.

On Thursday, Caldwell addressed the media and said "it's still up in the air" on how much Colts starters would play this Sunday at Buffalo.

"Because everybody is going to be a little bit different," he said. "And for me to go down every guy and say, 'This guy is going to play, that guy is not going to play much, this guy is going to play two series, that guy is going to play one,' that can get monotonous."

"But you do know that there will be some starters that will not play the whole game," he said. "That you do know."

One thing that will not impact how much Caldwell's players play this week is the weather.

"Our league does a great job wherever we play of keeping it safe for our players," he said. "I don't feel that will be an issue."

The Colts issued Thursday's injury report with the following players listed as full participation in practice: RBs-Joseph Addai (shoulder), Donald Brown (illness) and Mike Hart (ankle), DBs-Antoine Bethea (foot), Aaron Francisco (hand), Tim Jennings (ankle) and Jacob Lacey (biceps), LBs-Gary Brackett (foot) and Cody Glenn (shoulder), WRs-Austin Collie (rested) and WR-Reggie Wayne (foot), OGs-Kyle DeVan (illness) and Jamey Richard (shoulder), DTs-Fili Moala (knee) and Daniel Muir (shoulder), OT-Tony Ugoh (knee) and K-Adam Vinatieri (right knee).

DB-Melvin Bullitt (shoulder) and WR-Pierre Garcon (hand) were listed as limited participation, while the following players were listed as did not participate in practice: DEs-Keyunta Dawson (knee), Dwight Freeney (abdomen) and Robert Mathis (quad), OTs-Ryan Diem (elbow) and Charlie Johnson (foot), DT-Antonio Johnson (shoulder), DB-Jerraud Powers (hamstring), TE-Gijon Robinson (knee), LB-Clint Session (knee) and RB-Chad Simpson (concussion).

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