JUST GETTING STARTED

Colts CB Tim Jennings, a second-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft, started 12 games last season, his first extended time as an NFL starter. He said the experience gained last season should help him make major strides this season no matter the role he plays.

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Colts CB Jennings Says Experience Should Help Him Improve in 2009

INDIANAPOLIS – At his position, Tim Jennings said the NFL must be approached without regret.

Jennings is a fourth-year veteran for the Colts. Because he plays cornerback, he said it's imant to always put the last play, the last game, the last month, the last season in the past and have it really be in the past.

Still, Jennings said he does have one wish.

"I wish last season had been my rookie year," Jennings said recently.

The reason, Jennings said, is simple:

Injuries limited him so much as a rookie and second-year player, he felt as if he didn't make as much progress in the 2006 and 2007 seasons. And while he said no season in the NFL is a waste, he said he didn't really start making progress until last season.

Which is where he said his regret ends.

Because Jennings said while he didn't play perfectly last season, he said he did improve, and the feeling of that improvement – and the lessons learned – is what he'll take from last season.

"My first and second year, I was out there playing off, really, just instincts," Jennings said. "I wasn't 100 percent out there. Going into my third year, I was able to learn about the NFL because of how much I was playing. Your instincts take over in the mental part of the game.

"You're able to make more plays, because you're out there feeling more comfortable and you're healthy."

Jennings, a second-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft, started just four games his first two seasons, missing 10 games over the span because of various injuries.

This past season that changed in a big way.

Jennings, who had seven passes defensed while starting four games in 2007, started 12 games last season because of injuries to Kelvin Hayden and Marlin Jackson, defensing eight passes and registering 74 tackles. He also forced two fumbles and recovered two fumbles.

Jennings also last season recorded his first two NFL career interceptions.

"I learned just the speed and the mental part of the game," Jennings said. "What I mean by mental part is you have to go out there and concentrate. I think that was real helpful for me last year. I was able to go out there and be more healthy than I was before, which was a key factor.

"Now, as I start to play, I'll start to pick up on the mental things and the concentration level that you need to be on to go out there and play the game and stay healthy and produce."

Jennings said his improvement last season had to do with more than just opportunity. During his first season, he was bothered by an ankle injury and in his second season, it was a knee that he said hampered him at times.

Last season, he said he was as close to full health as he has been in three seasons.

"Being a defensive back, you need your ankle and you need your whole lower body," he said. "With the ankle surgery I had, it slowed me down, coming in and out of my breaks, being able to move laterally. I feel like it slowed me down, but I was able to go out there and do whatever I could on special teams.

"My second year, I had a scope on my knee, and I felt like my knee was kind of holding me back, too, from being able to drive. Going into my third year, my ankle was feeling a lot better and my knee was a lot stronger. I was able to go out and produce a little more, move around a little faster and able to cut and plant out of my breaks a lot quicker.

"It played a big factor my first and second year. I felt like it held me back from some of my potential, what I was able to do. I felt like in my third year I was able to produce a lot more."

Which is why Jennings said his first goal is and always will be to remain healthy. He said he has the ability to play corner, the confidence to withstand adversity and the potential to improve.

He said the one key to fulfilling that potential? Being on the field.

"I feel like if I've stayed healthy, I've gotten better," Jennings said. "If I'm able to be on the field, making plays and don't have anything to worry about, I know I'm capable of playing if I can go through the whole season without having any worries. I've just got to stay healthy. If I can do that, I've gotten better, because then I'll be able to perform to the best of my ability.

"I'm looking forward to my career. The most important year is your third and fourth year playing in the NFL. I'm looking forward to big things next year."

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