FINDING A WAY

He doesn't always enter the season as a starter, but in three seasons, safety Melvin Bullitt has developed into one of the Colts' most reliable, productive defensive players.

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Colts Safety Melvin Bullitt Remains a Critical Member of Colts Secondary

INDIANAPOLIS – He's a veteran now – not old, exactly, but in NFL terms, not young anymore.

Melvin Bullitt, who has played an imant role in multiple areas for the Colts in recent seasons, said recently it's sometimes difficult to believe as much time has passed since he entered professional football in comparatively humble circumstances.

He's entering his fourth NFL season.

And while Bullitt said he is increasingly comfortable in his role as a veteran, and his emerging responsibility as a leader, it still doesn't seem as if he has been in the league that long.

"It's gone pretty fast," Bullitt said during the Colts' recent organized team activities at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.

"I still remember coming in as a rookie."

Bullitt, who signed with the Colts as a free agent from Texas A&M shortly after the 2007 NFL Draft, spoke shortly after this year's rookie class had begun working with the Colts' veterans during OTAs.

It was, Bullitt said, a site that brought back memories.

"I look at those guys and I think, 'I remember when I was in their shoes," he said. "Anybody can be a contributor, you never know."

And while Bullitt said he remains an example of that message – that whatever a player's draft status, around the Colts that player is judged on performance – he said his story now is far more about improving and continuing to play at a high level than overcoming odds.

Bullitt said his confidence has improved with each season playing, and with each season, he said he expects more from himself.

"My main thing is just try to continue to improve year in and year out," Bullitt said last season. "From my rookie year, I feel as though I've matured a lot, become a better football player, and hopefully I can just continue to do the same. I want to become one of the best DBs (defensive backs) in the game."

Colts safety Antoine Bethea, a Pro Bowl selection in 2007 and 2009, said Bullitt has done that.

"He can start on any team, I think, in the NFL," Bethea said. "I give much credit to Melvin Bullitt. He's done a great job for us."

Still, Bullitt before the past two seasons wasn't necessarily expected to play a critical defensive role.

Circumstance, however, dictated that he did.

Bob Sanders, a Pro Bowl selection in 2005 and 2007, missed 10 games in 2008, then began this past season inactive with a knee injury. He returned, but missed all but two games this past season after sustaining a season-ending biceps injury in October.

With Sanders out much of the past two seasons, Bullitt each season played a more prominent role than might have been expected before the season.

"I always try to find a way to get on the field," said Bullitt, who also has at times in the past three seasons been one of the Colts' top special teams players. "That's what I do, regardless of who's out there or who's not out there. I try to take care of what I need to take care of and go on from there.

"If you contribute and do well in practice, you'll find a way to get out there."

Bullitt started 12 games this past season after starting nine the season before, and in 2009, he finished fourth on the team with 82 tackles, including 55 solos. He also had a pressure, a pass defensed and a forced fumble.

He also started for the Colts throughout the post-season and had five tackles and a pass defensed in the Colts' loss to New Orleans in Super Bowl XLIV.

"Melvin's a great player, and he's done an excellent job," Sanders said of Bullitt during OTAs. "We're all competing. We don't know who's going to be where. We have no idea. It's still early. We just don't know, so I really can't make a comment on that because there's a lot of time here left and there are a lot of positions on the field that we can all play.

"We're just going to focus on getting better and working as a unit and working as a team. And whatever happens in that way, it will happen. We'll wait and see."

Sanders worked with the Colts during the Colts' off-season organized team activities, but Bullitt said while the two-time Pro Bowl selection's return could alter his playing time, the issue isn't something about which he much worries.

"Being in the situation I'm in, you have to approach things a little different," Bullitt said. "I know that going in, the situation. I approach it as if I'm going to play every down.

"When the time comes, when I'm out there, I make the best of it."

And while the rookies who came in this past off-season might see him as a bit older than he or his veteran teammates see him, Bullitt said as he enters the season he has other focuses beyond how many years he has been in the league. His goal, he said, is to keep feeling young, keep playing like a veteran, and keep doing whatever necessary to contribute to the Colts' defense.

"I just come to work and do what I do," Bullitt said. "I guess because I look so young the guys always mess me a little bit, but it's a fun atmosphere.

"It's something you want to stay young in."

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