Jack Doyle is entering his ninth year with the Colts. Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks will be his eighth home opener (he was inactive for Week 1 of the 2013 season).
But even for a veteran, the first game of the season — especially at home — still hits different.
"It's a little bit of anxiety, anxious, you're ready to get out there more so than jitters or butterflies," Doyle said. "You're just ready to play. I think if you don't get those you probably shouldn't be playing this game anymore because that's kind of what this game's about. You have to care to do well."
The 31-year-old Doyle knows how special it is to play nearly a decade in his hometown, where his wife, sons, parents and extended family can all come watch him play on a regular basis. Those moments where he can see his family in the crowd are certainly special.
But he also doesn't think about it much, and probably won't until his playing career is over.
"Playing for your hometown, it's a lot of fun for your family," Doyle said. "That's who gets the true benefit of it.
"… I'm here to do a job, I'm here to work, I'm here to try to get a little better at football every day and gotta keep that mindset."
Still, after playing the 2020 season in front of small crowds, or no crowds at all, there is a bit of added excitement for Doyle and the Colts heading into what'll be a packed Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.
"It feels like it's been forever," Doyle said. "I just know the crowd's going to be awesome. I can't wait."
Thursday's Practice Report
Darius Leonard Has Lofty Goals, And Why Not?
Colts linebacker Darius Leonard on Thursday offered up the statistical goals he wants to hit this year: 200 tackles, 10 sacks, 10 interceptions, "stuff like that," he said.
Those are the kind of numbers that'd probably earn Leonard Defensive Player of the Year honors. And since that's one of his big goals for this season, well — why not try to hit those numbers?
"If that's not your goal every time you step out on the field," Leonard said, "then you're not doing the right thing."
Only three linebackers have topped 200 tackles in a season before (Hardy Nickerson, and Jessie Tuggle twice). Having the season expand to 17 games might make it more attainable; the NFL's slide toward favoring passing instead of running may not — the most tackles a player has had since 2015 is 167, which Seattle's Bobby Wagner racked up in 2016. Leonard had 163 his rookie year.
"Just got to make sure I go out and be the best one on the field, that's the main goal each week," Leonard said. "If I can be the best person on the field each week, that's when you can say, okay, Defensive Player of the Year. That's the ultimate goal – Super Bowl, Super Bowl ring and stuff like that. So just being number one on the field at all times."