GAINING EXPERIENCE, CONFIDENCE

Colts third-year reserve tight end Jacob Tamme has played extensively this preseason, catching a touchdown pass in each of the first two games.

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Colts Third-Year Veteran Jacob Tamme Taking Advantage of Preseason Opunity

INDIANAPOLIS – Jacob Tamme feels a bit better this year, a bit more veteran.

And to hear the third-year tight end from the University of Kentucky tell it, that's really the difference for him between this preseason and preseasons past.

Not numbers, because Tamme typically has put up solid preseason numbers.

And not ability, because he long has had that.

But with Pro Bowl tight end Dallas Clark missing the first two games of the preseason, it has been Tamme – a fourth-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft – who has used that opportunity to personify the Colts' long-standing belief that backups must produce with starters out.

Tamme has done so before. Just not quite with so much experience.

"With experience comes being more and more comfortable, and more and more ready when you get on the field," Tamme said this past weekend, days after he caught his second touchdown of the preseason in Indianapolis' loss to the Buffalo Bills in Toronto last Thursday.

"When you get more and more reps and are in there, you become more and more accustomed to it and more and more ready when your number is called."

Tamme, who has emerged as one of the Colts' best special teams players in recent seasons, has played a role as a backup behind Clark. He caught three passes for 35 yards last season, and also registered 13 special teams tackles.

Clark said this week there's more to Tamme than he has had a chance to show offensively.

"He can do a lot of things," Clark said. "He runs really good routes and has really good hands. He can make a lot of mismatches. He's a guy who has lots of talent and a lot of ability, but he has seen limited time. It has been a valuable time for him to see a lot of football and to get to practice. He has built on his skills during practice.

"He has a lot of talent and he's a really good football player."

Clark also said Tamme has played with a more experienced feel this preseason.

"He has made improvements each year, and that's exactly what you want to see from the younger guys," said Clark, who last season was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time while becoming the second tight end in NFL history with 100 or more receptions in a single season.

"You want to see that continuous growth and maturity, and he's a guy who really has done that. He has taken his job really seriously. He always has come to work wanting to get better."

And although Clark's presence at times has kept Tamme from playing extensively, he said it's just as true that being around Clark in practices, games and the off-season has helped.

"There's nobody better to learn from in the NFL," Tamme said. "From my first year here, he took me in and helped me learn the ropes. I still learn from him every day. It has been great. He's the perfect guy to watch, to emulate.

"I just have to be ready to go in there and not miss a beat and also be ready to go in there and do some things myself."

While Tamme said this past off-season that special teams as become an area in which he takes a lot of pride, he also said he spent the off-season focused on improving at his drafted position. That included the opportunity to get repetitions with quarterback Peyton Manning, something he has had more opportunities to get with Clark's recent absence.

"This summer we got a lot of work, and going into this pre-season and camp," Tamme said. "It's been good. It's nice to be able to get in there with those guys and make some plays. That's fun. That's playing football, when you're in there, moving the ball downfield and getting chance to score touchdowns, so that's neat."

Tamme, who caught a touchdown pass from third-team quarterback Tom Brandstater in the second half of the preseason opener, caught another with the first-team offense in the second quarter of the Colts' 34-21 loss to Buffalo Thursday. He got open behind the Bills' defense, and made a diving reception in the end zone on a pass from Manning for a 21-yard touchdown.

"That's my thing, just be ready when your number is called, and when I'm in there, whether it's pass protection or a run block or running a route to get somebody else open, or running a route to catch the football," Tamme said. "The more experience you get doing that the better.

"I think your confidence goes up every year. You know just a little more about what's going on and what to expect and what defenses are doing, which is so important in our offense."

And Tamme said with the extra year of experience, he is more confident when it's his time to live up to the team-wide credo, he can do so.

"Like (Colts Head) Coach (Jim) Caldwell says, and like (former Head) Coach (Tony) Dungy used to say, 'As a franchise, we believe that when somebody goes down, you step in and not miss a beat,'" Tamme said. "Dallas is obviously one of if not the best in the NFL, so it's big shoes to fill when somebody like him's not in there, but we have to step in and not miss a beat. It's been a good challenge and good experience.

"I think it will do nothing but make us better down the road, but obviously it's good when we have Dall in there.'

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