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The Colts will play the Green Bay Packers Thursday in the third game of the 2010 preseason. 'This third preseason game is probably the most important of them all,' Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney said.


Colts Will Play Green Bay Packers in Third 2010 Preseason Game

INDIANAPOLIS – Dwight Freeney doesn't worry much about preseason records.

At the same time, Freeney – the Colts' five-time Pro Bowl selection – said if there is a preseason game that separates itself from the rest, it's the third preseason game.

And it's the third preseason game that will be played Thursday.

So, Freeney said when you combine the week being imant with playing against a good team and playing it on national television – then yes, he said, there is an energy this week.

One more reason? The venue of the game – Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., a site Freeney and several Colts players said this week will provide something close to a regular-season feel.

"I played there once before and I do not know what else is up there but football," Freeney said as the Colts (0-2 in the preseason) prepared to play the Green Bay Packers (1-1) at Lambeau Field Thursday at 8 p.m.

"They definitely have a football culture."

The game in that sense will feature two teams with some of the most rich traditions in NFL history, with the Packers having won three Super Bowls and appeared in four. The Colts also have appeared in four Super Bowls, including two of the last four.

The Colts also have the NFL's best regular-season record since 1999, 128-48, and not only have made an NFL-high eight consecutive playoff appearances, they also have won 12 or more games an NFL-record seven consecutive seasons and won the AFC South title six of the last seven seasons.

That's big-time success. And it's one reason players and coaches said there are more important things during preseason than the won-loss record. The Colts, who lost to San Francisco (37-17) and Buffalo (34-21) in the first two games of this preseason, have a 4-20 record in preseason since 2005.

"It's hard to explain," Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said. "I would think that (Colts Head) Coach (Jim) Caldwell and (Colts Head) Coach (Tony) Dungy before that, it's not their goal."

Manning said evaluation of players and determining what might work and what might not during the regular season long has been a priority.

"I think we are looking at certain things," Manning said. "I know we do experiment with certain people, certain plays. You're going to call certain plays that you want to get a look at it knowing it might not be the best play, but you want to get it on film and make an evaluation of certain people and players.

"Certainly, you're getting a lot of young guys and giving them a chance to play."

The Colts not only have had solid regular-season records for much of the last decade, they have had a history of strong starts. They have started at least 5-0 in five of seven seasons, starting 5-0 in 2003, 13-0 in 2005, 9-0 in 2006, 7-0 in 2007 and 14-0 last season.

"Hopefully that trend will continue for us," Manning said. "It doesn't guarantee it. The idea is always trying to get off to a good start in the regular season.

"We've done that in the past, but this is a new year and we'll have a challenge this year, as well."

Said Freeney, "If our regular season records were bad then I would say that maybe it all started in the preseason and that's why our regular season was bad. That hasn't happened with what has been going on around here. I think we have won, what four (preseason) games out of the last 24 or 25? Yet we have the most wins in the National Football League over that span in the history of the game, so it can't really translate other than the fact that you have to work on the basics and get better.

"Obviously, whenever you play a game and record a score, you want to win. As a competitor you want to win, but I think going into each preseason game you have a different focus. The game planning is a little bit different. That's what preseason really is. It is a time to get better, sharpen that sword so in the regular season you are flying on all sides."

The Colts use the third preseason game as many NFL teams do, as a time to not only improve and evaluate, but to emulate a regular-season game. The Colts game-planned extensively this week for the game, and for the first time in the preseason, the schedule was essentially the same as that which the Colts will follow during a normal regular-season game week.

Caldwell also said the Colts will follow essentially the same pattern for playing time as past seasons in the third preseason. The Colts typically play starters such as Manning into the third quarter to simulate the halftime routine, with many starters and front-line players leaving early in the third quarter.

"That's something we've always done," Manning said. "I think it does help everybody. The veterans and the coaches just remember what it is we do during the weekly routine. You don't want to get to that first week (and say), 'Oh yeah, I forgot that we normally do this on a Wednesday or on a Thursday.'

"It's good for me, it's good for the coaches and I know it's good for the young guys to give them an idea of how we game plan and what a Wednesday practice or a Thursday practice is like.

"The fact that we're going on the road gives us a good test to handle the crowd noise and playing against a really good team in Green Bay, it's a good situation."

Said Freeney, "This third preseason game is probably the most important out of all of them, especially for the starters. Mainly because you play longer and this is usually the game where camp is already broke so you get into a routine of what you normally do during the regular season.

"I think we normally do good as a whole and that's why this game is very important. It really gives you that most realistic feel to a regular season game."

The Colts on Wednesday announced the following players are not expected to play in Thursday's game:  TE-Dallas Clark, OT-Charlie Johnson, DB-Marcus McCauley, RB-Devin Moore, DB-Jerraud Powers, C-Jeff Saturday and DB-Kevin Thomas.

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