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It's Final Audition Time For Several Colts Players

This week is the final preseason game for the Indianapolis Colts, and it is the final audition of the summer for several players attempting to make the roster.


INDIANAPOLIS — The fourth and final game of preseason often gets a bad rap as being the ugly duckling of the bunch.

But while it features little to no action from the NFL's stars, it absolutely does serve a purpose.

For many players sitting on the bubble — will they make the final cut from the 90-man offseason roster to the 53-man regular season roster? — they're not only fighting for their spot with their current team, but they are also trying to put out good film to entice other teams in the event they are among the nearly 1,200 players being cut that weekend.

A guy like Tyreek Burwell finds himself in that position this week. The Colts tackle knows the team has said it wants to carry as many as 10 offensive linemen on its 53-man roster, so a quality performance in Thursday's preseason finale against the Cincinnati Bengals could very well cement a spot for himself and/or those around him.

Still, Burwell said, it's important to "treat it like it's a regular game."

"I treat every game the same," he continued. "There's something on the line every game. I'm playing for a position on this team. People outside the room say, 'It's just preseason, this game doesn't count,' but everyone here wants to win.

"I was talking to someone about that yesterday, how good it felt to walk off the field with a win. Some people say it don't matter, but every game matters."

For other players heading into the preseason finale, they could still be competing for a starting spot on their team or to be among their position group's rotation.

Darrell Daniels knows the deal. About this time last year, Daniels was able to defy the odds and make the Colts' 53-man roster as an undrafted rookie. He would go on to play in 12 games with three starts at the tight end position.

Daniels heads into Thursday's game against the Bengals hoping to earn a spot once again. He knows the overall talent at the position is much better this time around, but, then again, so is he — as evidenced by several plays he's made throughout the offseason workout program, training camp and the preseason.

"(I'm) just going out there and trying to execute every play that I'm in — taking advantage of each and every opportunity that I'm in during the game," Daniels said.

It's possible to hype yourself up too much heading into a personally significant game, so players like Burwell and Daniels are taking it one snap at a time and focusing only on what they can control.

Then, you've also got unique circumstances, such as with new Colts cornerback Lenzy Pipkins.

With one preseason game to go and the mass cutdown coming two days later, the Colts made a trade on Sunday, sending former starting linebacker Antonio Morrison to the Green Bay Packers in exchange for Pipkins.

Pipkins — in his second season after going undrafted out of Oklahoma State — said what he hopes to accomplish Thursday is, "(to) just learn the system a little bit more, get comfortable with it, get my feet wet. Just playing in a Colts uniform, really."

Whether you've been around like Burwell or Daniels, or if you're like Pipkins and you're just now trying to set a foundation, Colts head coach Frank Reich said every circumstance will be taken into consideration over the next few days.

"Well, one thing in this business that you always find out is someone could go into this last game, and sure it's the whole body of work, but sometimes you get down to the last game and a guy flashes on special teams and makes you reconsider," Reich said.

Regardless of what circumstance a player is in, Reich says that the evaluation is not done — just yet.

"Anyone who is playing in this game Thursday night still has a legitimate shot to make this team," Reich said. "Part of the message is last impressions, last opportunities sometimes go a long way."

As the Colts roster gets whittled from 90 players down to 53 this weekend, all of those players in Thursday's game will be hoping they made a good last impression on the football field.

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