INDIANAPOLIS –Veteran* *Dan Orlovsky has started seven of 15 appearances in his NFL career.
The majority of his opportunities came in 2008 with Detroit, a team for which he played from 2005-09. After appearing in one game with Houston last season without having a pass attempt, he signed with Indianapolis just prior to training camp.
Orlovsky played for Indianapolis in the preseason before being released at the final cut to 53 players. He re-joined the Colts after the team underwent an injury to Kerry Collins and the movement of Curtis Painter to the starting position.
At 28 years of age and as an intelligent and introspective person, Orlovsky has a unique view of Painter's maturation in the most difficult position in sports. It is something Orlovsky has been through himself, and he knows how Painter should and will handle it.
"It's hard to play quarterback in this league. That's why there's only 32 of them," said Orlovsky. "It's a unique thing to be good at. For the most part, even the guys who end up being really, really good players in this league struggle at some point. I know what he's going through. When I had my opportunity to play I had some ups and some downs. It's a big part of the process. You have to learn from your mistakes. You have to correct them in your own game. You have to stay positive."
Orlovsky is aware that eyes trained on the starting quarterback come from everywhere.
"The guys on the team need to see you as their leader," said Orlovsky. "They need to see you staying positive and coming back to work. No matter if you go out and light it up or play bad, they have to see your demeanor the same. You come back to work on Wednesday the same and prepare that way. I think he will respond the right way. It's just part of the process. You hope you don't go through it much or long, it's a process most guys go through."
Orlovsky has played in fourth-quarter relief of Painter in two of the last three games. It came in situations when the outcome of the game had been decided and players in addition to the quarterback position were being inserted into the action. Head Coach Jim Caldwell stated after the Atlanta game that Painter is the team's starter. The answer negated any possible perception that could be concocted to the contrary.
Orlovsky has gone through the crash-course of his NFL starting career. He completed 143-of-255 passes for 1,616 yards with eight touchdowns and interceptions in 2008. His totals previously to that with the Lions were seven completions in 17 attempts for 63 yards in two reserve appearances in 2005. Orlovsky was exposed to the Indianapolis offense in camp and the orientation yielded a classic analogy for what it is like to absorb. "Go get Rosetta Stone and study some exotic language," Orlovsky said of the difficult nature of learning the Colts' attack.
Painter has been in the system for three years and received the bulk of the camp work with the first-teamers. It was the first true extended exposure for Painter with the front-liners. While he was in his third year in the system, Painter's crash-course started in week three and spans a duration still short of Orlovsky's.
Orlovsky is sure Painter still is learning.
"I'm sure it's a process," said Orvlosky. "Being around it for three years, I'm sure has made him more comfortable in it. No matter if you've been in it 10 years or 10 days, you're always trying to learn stuff in your offense. I'm sure he's trying to continue to grow and go from there."
Orlovsky toiled on some Detroit teams that did not encounter much success. In such times, belief in oneself, the coaches and the team is of critical importance, as is negating opinion outside the organizational atmosphere.
"It's huge. You have to believe in yourself, understand what got you to the point where you are," said Orlovsky. "That's what's given you some success in your life at some point – high school and college. You have to believe in yourself, believe your in coaches (and) believe in your teammates. If you don't it's easily visible."
As with most quarterbacks, Orlovsky has gone through situations where he was pulled from a game. The issue is not being pulled, it is the reponse. After all, it is a tough position to play.
"If you play long enough, you're going to get cut. If you play the position long enough, you're going to have a day when you're going to get pulled," said Orlovsky. "It's very much how you respond. (You) come back and you show that 'does it affect you in a manner that is long-term?' Are you upset about it? Sure. It should affect you. It shouldn't change how you go about your business. It shouldn't change the person you are in the film rooms, the meeting rooms. Oftentimes, it hopefully refines you and re-focuses you and things like that. It's very much how you respond, sure."
Orlovsky has been through the situation in which Indianapolis find itself. He cites the integrity on the roster and the veteran leadership as keys to why the club will continue fighting to the maximum extent.
"I think we have the character of guys who won't quit," said Orlovsky. "They're going to continue to prepare, whether they were 0-9 or 9-0. You don't have a decade of winning (by) not knowing how to handle adversity. It's not like they went 16-0 here every year. I'm sure they've been backed against the wall before. … You go out and throw your best punch every Sunday."
When asked how a team with a tough record keeps motivated, Orlovsky responded like any proud competitor would.
"I think the motivation enough is you get to play a game for a living," said Orlovsky. "Do that, it's your job. Our focus should be all about Sunday. … We have to do a good job, if you're a first-year guy or a 10th-year guy, keeping everybody together, keeping our ears plugged. Don't listen to stuff when it's going good. Don't listen to stuff when it's going bad. You focus on your next week. Hopefully we'll come in and correct the things you need to correct and move on."