INDIANAPOLIS – Head Coach Jim Caldwell reached out to Dan Orlovsky on Tuesday morning, hailing the seventh-year quarterback to his office.
There, Caldwell told Orlovsky he would be starting for the Colts Sunday against New England. The news meant Orlovsky would be starting an NFL game for the eighth time in his career and for the first time since December 28, 2008 with Detroit.
Though the news changed Orlovsky's week, it did not change his day. He already was in the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center to work, and he went about his usual paces.
Today when Orlovsky entered the facility it was day one of true preparations, which meant a heavy dose of action with the front-liners.
When asked what he hoped to bring to the club on Sunday, Orlovsky was direct.
"Hopefully a win," said Orlovsky. "Whatever it takes to win would be my goal, just to run the offense. I'm not going to be Superman or anything like that, I'm just going to run the offense, try to get us in good situations, try to move the chains and go from there. … I'm excited about the opportunity and appreciative of it. (I will) just go out and prepare, and I'm confident that I will go out and play well."
Changing a quarterback is a dramatic move for any team. This marks the third starter for the Colts in 2011. Veteran Kerry Collins was under center on opening day, but suffered a season-ending injury in the third outing. Curtis Painter moved in as the starter for the next eight games, and now Orlovsky gets the call. One of his first moves was to reach out to Painter.
"I've talked to Curtis. That was one of the first things I did," said Orlovsky. "I know it's a really uniquely and potentially awkward situation. I've kind of been in it before in my career. I just wanted to make sure he knew that I wasn't going to try to belittle him or anything. I wanted to let him know I'm here for him if he needed to talk and that we're still teammates. Our number one goal for us (quarterbacks), whoever is in, (is) to do what we can for our team to win. We're both on board with that."
Painter carries many positives as a person and competitor. He is handling the situation professionally.
"Obviously, you love to play," said Painter. "I don't think there's anybody in this locker room who doesn't want to play. I'd love to be out there, but I understand how things go. It will kind of change my role a little bit, but I still will be here and try to help this team win."
At practice on Wednesday, Orlovsky got most of the reps with the first team, and Painter will continue to prepare as he has done in the past when he backed up Peyton Manning for two seasons.
"No question. The emphasis is still the same for that (preparation)," said Painter. "Unfortunately a while back, that's how I got my opportunity this year – because of injuries. Obviously, we don't want that to happen again. It's a crazy league and you always have to be ready. That certainly will be my emphasis."
Painter came in for praise for Caldwell. Caldwell's first year as head coach was Painter's rookie season, and he likes the stoic manner with which Painter comports himself.
"Curtis is a real professional," said Caldwell. "That's kind of the thing that you quickly understand in regard to him. He doesn't get rattled very much. Now, he's highly-competitive. I'm certain he's disappointed. He's not going to stomp and pout and cry about it. He's a man. He's able to take some setbacks and go back to work again. The role he is in now is a little different. It's a support role. He also has to get ready with doing (practicing with starters). I think he's up to that challenge."
Caldwell likes the mental and physical abilities of Orlovsky. Orlovsky signed with the Colts just prior to training camp and went about immersing himself in the offense. The offense never has been a quick study for anyone, but Orlovsky held his own.
"Dan's been the league a little while. He has experience in that regard," said Caldwell. "He was able to catch onto our system pretty quickly. Even when he was here in preseason, one of the things we all sort of marveled at was how quickly he was able to adapt and adjust. I think that's the thing you find out with the older guys in the league, they understand systems well. They do a real good job of being able to translate the information and function fairly quickly."
Indianapolis has labored offensively this season in certain areas. The club has not been as efficient on third down conversions (46-of-142) as in past seasons. The inability to sustain drives accounts partly for the team's possession time average of 24:32, and Indianapolis has not held the ball for more than 28:32 in any of its games.
Caldwell knows there must be more efficiency across the board in helping Orlovsky run the attack.
"What we anticipate him doing is being able to manage the offense," said Caldwell. "We do not plan to put all the weight on his shoulders. We're going to have to spread things around a little bit and do some things a little bit differently and try make certain we use his strengths. He's a dropback quarterback, but he also can get out of the pocket as well. We'll try to utilize his abilities (the) best we can.
"I think he's a guy that certainly is comfortable within the framework of the system. I think he is a guy that's also been around the league a while. He's able to adjust and adapt to different systemic problems that you may have or see from a defense. He can adjust to those very easily. He has a nice, strong arm. We're anticipating he's going to be accurate as well, that's key. He's got to play smart and not scared. … We will do adjustments according to his strengths. That's one of the things you have to look at certainly have to evaluate. What we'll do is let him do the things he does well within the framework of our offensive system."
Orlovsky (6-5, 230) originally was a fifth-round pick by Detroit in the 2005 draft. He saw action in two games that year as a reserve, completing seven-of-17 passes for 63 yards. Orlovsky started seven of 10 appearances in 2008. He completed 143-of-255 passes for 1,616 yards with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. After departing from Detroit, he signed with Houston in 2010. He saw action in one game as a reserve, but did not throw a pass. In three relief appearances this season, he has completed 14-of-21 passes for 122 yards.