'NOW, THE GAMES REALLY COUNT'

After a flurry of roster moves this past weekend, the Colts spent Monday beginning preparations for the 2010 regular-season opener Sunday afternoon at Houston. 'We're excited about it,' Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said.

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With Preseason in the Past, Colts Begin Preparing for 2010 Regular-Season Opener

INDIANAPOLIS – In one sense, things don't much change.

Jim Caldwell, entering his second season as the Colts' head coach, said as the 2010 regular season begins, the team will continue to do many of the same things each week, working toward the long-term objective of improving performance.

In just as real sense, things are different.

Because whereas in the preseason the scores mattered but there were also bigger objectives, that's not the case in the regular season. And he said that's the biggest, most-imant difference of all.

The regular season is here. At last.

And now, winning matters.

"The approach is the same for us in terms of finding ways to make certain we improve," Caldwell said Monday as the Colts (14-2 last season, AFC and AFC South Champions) prepared to play the Houston Texans (9-7) in an AFC South game at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday at 1 p.m.

"But obviously, these games, they count. The other (preseason) games are games where you certainly are aware of the scoreboard, but you're also evaluating quite extensively.

"This is where we make our money, so we're excited about it."

The Colts, who made a flurry of roster moves over the weekend to reach the NFL-mandated 53-player limited, lost their preseason finale last Thursday to the Cincinnati Bengals. They finished the preseason 0-4, something that players said meant little then and even less this week.

"These games actually count," Colts middle linebacker and defensive captain Gary Brackett said. "Guys are really laying it on the line."

Safety Melvin Bullitt, entering his fourth season with the team, said the team's past success in the regular season is why there is little concern over the preseason record. The Colts have a 4-22 record in the preseason since 2005, but have a 65-15 regular-season record during the same span.

The Colts have started 5-0 or better in five of the last seven seasons, and have turned those starts into five of their six AFC South titles during that span.

The Colts, who have won the AFC Championship two of the past four seasons, have won 12 or more games an NFL-record seven consecutive seasons, and have played in the post-season an NFL-best eight consecutive seasons.

"Now, the games really count," Bullitt said. "I don't even remember the first game of the preseason. It was definitely something to get our feet wet, get us going and make sure we know all of our basic stuff. But we might come out with a whole new game plan for Week 1. You just never know. It's time to get in the meeting room and learn what's really going on with our guys who are going to be here and move forward.

"It's preseason. Some guys do play. Some guys don't. Some guys only play a certain amount of time. I'd rather mistakes happen during preseason than during the regular season. If that was during the regular season, I'd build up some concern, but right now, it's 0-0.

"Were going in with a fresh, clean slate and we're ready to go."

Bullitt said there was a business-like approach in the Colts' locker room Monday.

"We have a veteran team," Bullitt said. "The guys know how to approach it. You kind of congratulate the guys who are new here. They deserve it. They had a good preseason either here or wherever they were. You look to move forward to Week 1."

And after a preseason in which starters played a few series in two games, a half in one and for the most part not at all in the finale, the chance to prepare for a regular-season game – and to play an entire game – is something for which they have waited nearly seven months.

That means a bit of a change in this week's approach, Brackett said.

"I'm excited," Brackett said. "For the starters, you get an opportunity to play the entire game. You see a lot of guys probably conditioning a little more this week. You definitely want to have something in the tank in the fourth quarter."

Brackett also said whereas the Colts spend much of the preseason focused as much on evaluation as winning, and that therefore there is comparatively little game-planning for opponents, the regular season is drastically different.

"Our playbooks, both offensively and defensively, expand a little bit more," Brackett said. "You don't show everything in the preseason. Guys are ready to go."

Said Caldwell, "I think we always practice well and we're always excited about it and we're passionate about it. This time of year, you see that intensity level step up a notch or two."

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