INDIANAPOLIS – There are only so many seasons in a player's career, and the four previous years in Oakland had Darrius Heyward-Bey seeing constant change.
The seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft, Heyward-Bey played for multiple head coaches, offensive strategists and signal-callers.
He even played for multiple owners when Al Davis passed away in 2011.
After being cut by Oakland in March and entering the prime years of his career, Heyward-Bey sought stability. Courted by multiple teams over the past three weeks, something inside directed Heyward-Bey to Indianapolis.
"I just felt comfortable," said Heyward-Bey. "My whole life I've followed my heart on decisions, and I've made tough decisions in my life before. In this case I kind of did the same thing.
"I took the information in front of me when it came to the Colts and other teams. At the end, I just had to follow my heart and I just felt comfortable there."
Upheaval in Oakland was a constant presence and though Heyward-Bey thought his time was successful because of the professional strides he made, the turnover was a factor in what he sought in a second stop.
"I was there for four years and I had three coaches, four OC's (offensive coordinators), seven starting quarterbacks," said Heyward-Bey. "We had good times in Oakland. We went 8-8 at times and two years we went 4-12. I think my rookie year we won five games."
How much instability under center has affected Heyward-Bey's career is uncertain, but he never has had a full season with one starting quarterback.
In his rookie season, Heyward-Bey started nine games with JaMarcus Russell and two with Bruce Gradkowski. It was the third year of a difficult era for Oakland with Russell, and the Raiders were 2-7 in his nine starts. Gradkowski was in his first season with the Raiders and had only 12 previous career starts.
In Heyward-Bey's second season, his starting quarterback was Jason Campbell for 11 games and Gradkowski for four outings. The club's record with Heyward-Bey in the lineup was 8-7. It was Campbell's first season in Oakland after arriving from Washington.
Carson Palmer arrived in Oakland during Heyward-Bey's third season, and the pair started nine games together, winning four. Campbell and Kyle Boller opened in the other games in which he played. Palmer, who was 46-51 in seven seasons as a starter in Cincinnati was the most seasoned quarterback with whom Heyward-Bey had been around.
This past season, Heyward-Bey and Palmer opened 14 games together, going 4-10, while Terrelle Pryor was the starter in the other game in which Heyward-Bey opened.
Heyward-Bey will team with Andrew Luck in Indianapolis. Luck had 11 starting wins in his rookie season, one of the best totals in NFL history. Of the six quarterbacks who have opened in games Heyward-Bey has started, only Palmer (11, 2005) won as many games in a season as Luck.
A second-year quarterback is a security blanket for the fifth-year receiver. Heyward-Bey has been around enough to see other receivers have a constant presence under center.
He even saw Wes Welker this year transition from Tom Brady to Peyton Manning, ensuring a continuation of production. Heyward-Bey's mind joined his heart.
"You have Andrew Luck, in my opinion the best young quarterback out there," said Heyward-Bey.
"It's a confidence thing. You know that this guy is going to be your quarterback. There's no question about that.
"In Oakland, there were times when we weren't sure going week-by-week and we had to adjust on the fly. Knowing that Andrew is going to be back there feels good."