EARLY JITTERS

The Colts open the 2010 preseason against San Francisco Sunday at 1 p.m. Quarterback Peyton Manning said for the rookies, nerves and anxiety in that game are an expected part of the NFL experience.

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Brackett, Manning Say Preseason Nerves Are Normal for Colts Rookies

ANDERSON, Ind. – The nerves will be there.

As Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackett sees it, and as 10-time Pro Bowl quarterback Peyton Manning sees it, too, when it comes to the NFL preseason, that's just the reality for rookies and young players.

There will be pressure. There will be anxious moments.

An obvious part of that, Brackett said, is players proving to coaches they belong in the NFL, but first, he said there is more a immediate, more imant part. It is, he said, perhaps the most important part of a preseason for young players, with the player needing to prove something to someone more important than anyone else:

Himself.

"You have a lot of jitters," Brackett said this week as the Colts (16-3, AFC and AFC South Champions last season) prepared to play the San Francisco 49ers (8-8) in the preseason opener for both teams at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Sunday at 1 p.m.

"More important than proving to the team, some of these guys have to prove to themselves that they're worthy of being here.

"They practice hard and they're putting in work, but it's self-confidence."

The Colts, who have made the post-season an NFL-high eight consecutive seasons, have spent the last two weeks at 2010 Training Camp putting in that work, but Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said it wasn't until late this past week that they put in plans for the 49ers.

The first two weeks of camp have been predominately about working on fundamentals, and improving as a team, Caldwell said.

Caldwell this week didn't provide specifics on who will play for how long in the preseason opener, but said Manning – the Associated Press National Football League Most Valuable Player four times, including each of the last two seasons – likely will play a series or two.

Caldwell said the Colts likely will approach the first preseason game as they have in recent seasons, with many veterans not playing much past the first quarter. But Caldwell said injuries at some positions may mean front-line players playing longer than normal.

"We will see how it goes," Caldwell said. "Some of it is going to change day by day. It just depends. At some spots we are pretty thin and therefore some guys may play a little bit more than others.

"We don't plan to deviate much from what we've done. There may be some slight variations but it's out of necessity more so than by design."

And Dallas Clark said to make no mistake:

While most veterans likely won't play into the second half, there is an excitement and importance to the series in which they play – particularly after two weeks of training camp.

"It's kind of getting to that point in camp where you don't like practicing against each other," Clark said. "You see the same people, same everything, so it's fun to kind of mix it up. It's definitely a positive about preseason, playing in a game.

"You get to see different types of people, different types of defenses. You get to work against different kinds of looks that maybe our defense doesn't provide."

Said Manning, "Certainly for players it is fun to go up against a different opponent. You get tired of hitting the same guys, for those linemen. It's a different defense with different colored jerseys."

Colts safety Bob Sanders agreed.

"It will be good to see what we have," Sanders said. "Putting the pads on and doing a little bit of hitting is always good."

And while having an opponent makes it enjoyable for veterans, Manning said those same veterans hardly have forgotten the added importance it holds for their younger counterparts.

"I think the veteran players can share in that excitement," Manning said. "I know we've always had our veteran players in the past when they have come out of the game, they are still excited when a young guy goes in there and makes a play, catches a touchdown or forces an interception. So you want to help those guys as much as you can. I can definitely remember being nervous, excited, and those things are real emotions.

"So it's an exciting opportunity for those guys."

However long the veterans play Sunday, for rookies the preseason opener is the first experience in a professional game-like situation. And Manning said it is a chance for a player to show a player he belongs on an NFL roster, but at the same time do so in a way that can't be done in practice.

"For all of our rookies and first-year free agents it definitely is exciting," Manning said. "There is no question that coaches evaluate and there have been guys in the past that have looked great in practice, and then get on the playing field and it just hasn't carried over. Yet there have been guys that just haven't stood out at practice and they get on the playing field and all they do is make one-handed catches and return punts.

"It is a great opportunity for those guys and it is exciting."

Manning this week recalled his first preseason game in 1998, a game against Seattle in which he threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Marvin Harrison on his first play.

"Certainly when you throw your first pass in the NFL and it goes for a touchdown it can be an awkward feeling," Manning said. "I remember thinking, 'Well, this NFL is not that hard.' I think I only completed only one more pass the rest of the game. I think I completed two more to Seattle and maybe one more to the Colts. It was a pretty humbling feeling. . . .

"I can remember the jitters and the nerves you feel in that first preseason game. I don't know if it ever really goes away in that rookie year. You are playing a new team (each week) and there are certain players on each team. The first time you are playing against, for me it was a great player like Bruce Smith or Junior Seau, and I think there are firsts all that rookie year. I think that is healthy, and if a guy didn't feel a little bit nervous, it means he wasn't that into it and care that much.

"I think it is a healthy thing, and experience helps those things go away."

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