INDIANAPOLIS – Every quarterback who has ever led a team for as many seasons as Kerry Collins has had highs and lows, games to remember and rough spots in the road.
Collins is directing the Indianapolis offense, his sixth team, in his 17th NFL season. He breezed past a career milestone in the opener at Houston in a game that was a little bit of a rough spot.
For the steady pro, his method of working through the process of such an outing has gotten more refined with time.
"Throughout the years I definitely learned you have to have a short memory," said Collins. "Obviously, it was a rough game for us last weekend, but I feel we've taken the right approach to it, learned from it and we've moved on. It's ancient history now, as far as I'm concerned. We have another challenge this week. We have to improve, no question about it. We will get to work."
For a player of Collins' caliber, the rough moments are far out-weighed by the days of great achievements.
Last Sunday at Houston, Collins (40,638) moved past Joe Montana (40,441) into 10th-place in NFL career passing yards. It came in his 196th career game, and he soon could become the 16th NFL signal-caller to reach 200 career outings. Should he do so, he will join two other Colts in John Unitas (211) and Peyton Manning (208) to do so.
Collins' large body of work has prepared him well for moving forward. He and his teammates aim to operate with more consistency than last weekend when two early turnovers impacted the scoreboard and smoother execution came in later stages of the outing.
"I certainly think we will improve. We have to improve," said Collins. "We did some good things, but there were too many mistakes, too many turnovers. There are a lot of things we need to clean up. We're going to get back to work this week and try to clean them up."
The team had an early double-digit deficit against the Texans, and Collins knows a smoother start is needed against Cleveland.
"It is. Of course, any kind of start will be better than what we had last week," he said. "Absolutely, we need to be efficient and not have the negative plays we had last week. Right off the bat we put ourselves in a big hole. We need to try to avoid that this week."
Having joined the team on August 25, Collins still is getting immersed deeper in the playbook and with personnel. It has been a learning process that he is handling adeptly and while practices and film work lend to the orientation, an established pro still benefits the greatest from game conditions.
"I feel more and more comfortable every day," he said. "Certainly getting in the game and running this offense and making decisions and reads within the scheme of what we're trying to do under those types of situations (game-related) is going to help me, there's no question. It's an opportunity to keep grinding away and trying to get better."
Colts tight end Dallas Clark once learned the offense as a rookie where Collins is now learning it as a veteran of more seasons than most players ever experience. Clark knows each moment out in practice or a game is key learning time and he says the club is at ease with Collins and is impressed with his learning pace.
"I think it's huge. I think every time we can have a chance to practice (is good)," said Clark. "The more comfortable he gets, the better we are as an offense. Each week it's (the offense) going to improve. We just have to understand that as an offense. Everyone should focus on individual effort, their job and their responsibility, (then) everyone gradually improves and collectively we'll improve as an offense.
"I don't think it's been difficult for us (the offense). The more comfortable he gets of knowing where everyone's going to be (and) seeing the whole progression of being a quarterback and reading everything. That's why it's pretty impressive what he's been able to do so far because we're asking a lot of him. For us the guys who have been here (we should) just focus on doing our job and make sure he feels comfortable."
The Indianapolis offense huddled throughout the game at Houston, something a bit out of the norm from past seasons for the club. The offense maintained a solid tempo according to Collins, and he says the approach will remain the same.
"The plan is that we will continue to go the way we've been," he said. "I thought our tempo was good the other day, even though we were huddling, which is a little unusual for what's gone on here. We ran it (the offense) out of the huddle. After the game, I think from an operational standpoint it was okay. There weren't many glitches. We just need to take care of the ball better and limit the penalties and all the things that held us back the other day."
Collins and the Colts will be facing a different defense in Cleveland than it did in the opener with Houston. The Texans employed a 3-4 set with multiple fronts, while Cleveland plays a more structured 4-3. Collins sees challenge again this week.
"(They are) different schematically. Houston was a 3-4, these guys are a 4-3," said Collins. "Not near the number of blitzes show up that we saw last week preparing for Houston. They've got a talented group. They have good players…The thing that stands out about them is they have a very good secondary. They have two very good cover corners, two very active safeties.
"I certainly think we will see less defensive fronts and blitzes and things we saw last week, but we saw a lot of them last week. In any regard, we have to be on top of our (game). As long as we take the approach that we improve a little bit every day I think that gives us the best chance to be successful…It's going to be a good challenge for us to have some success this weekend…We have to be on top of our game."
WEEKLY PRACTICE REPORT
WEDNESDAY PRACTICE REPORT
OUT – QB-Peyton Manning (neck), LB-Gary Brackett (shoulder), LB-Ernie Sims (knee)
DID NOT PRACTICE – DE-Tyler Brayton (knee), LB-Kavell Conner (foot), DE-Dwight Freeney (rested), DE-Robert Mathis (neck), WR-Reggie Wayne (rested)
LIMITED PRACTICE – WR-Blair White (back)
FULL PRACTICE – WR-Anthony Gonzalez (hamstring)