INDIANAPOLIS – The competitor in Nate Irving says the 15-20 team reps he is getting in practice isn't enough.
Talking with his head, and not his heart, Irving knows that about 10 months removed from a season-ending ACL injury has him right on track with that amount of work.
"I have common sense to know that I have to build it up and it's a process," Irving says of his ACL recovery nearing an end.
"I'm right at the beginning of that process and I trust in the coaches and training staff that's taking care of me and telling me what to do."
Irving, who the Colts signed in free agency, has migrated from mental reps throughout the Colts entire offseason program to now receiving about a quarter of the defensive snaps at practice.
When the Colts added Irving back in March, the former Broncos starting linebacker was thought to provide necessary depth alongside D'Qwell Jackson and Jerrell Freeman.
He now appears to be nearing the point where he's challenging the Colts starting inside linebackers for game reps.
With practice steps steadily increasing, Irving is now getting live work in a new scheme.
"It's easy to learn it in the classroom, but to be able to transfer what you're able to learn in the classroom on the field, in motion, NFL speed, that's the challenging part," Irving says.
"I think I've been doing pretty well with that."
A behind the scenes look at Nate's 2015 photo shoot in the #ColtsPhotoGarage.
Pagano has liked what he's seen from the 6-1, 253-pound Irving.
Back at Training Camp in Anderson, Irving's day on the field would consist of joining Donald Thomas and Robert Mathis for rehab work, far away from the thumping.
That didn't sit well with Irving.
"I've been anxious," Irving says shaking his head.
"When camp started, I was anxious. Anxious isn't the word. The way I feel I can't say on TV, but it's that strong."
The Colts regular season opener is now less than two weeks away and it's a date Irving has targeted for some time.
When September 13 arrives, it will have been 316 days since Irving left the field last November, in New England, with his 2014 season over.
If Irving isn't going to play in Buffalo, don't tell him that now.
"Whether it's special teams, offense, defense, I will be out there," Irving says of the Colts regular season opener.
"If they take my helmet, that's the only way they are going to be able to stop me from getting out there."