INDIANAPOLIS —It was a deflating moment for Stephen Morris early on in training camp, when he learned he was going to be bumped down to be the Indianapolis Colts' No. 3 quarterback.
While the coaching staff wanted to see how undrafted rookie Phillip Walker would handle the rigors of running the second-team offense, Morris said he knew his performance to that point also just wasn't up to par.
"The first day I was really down on myself, for sure," Morris said. "I think anybody would. I think the competitor in everybody wants to be on the field and wants to play."
But from that point, Morris said it was important to check his ego "at the door." Whenever he got another chance to show what he could do — whether that was in the meeting room or out on the field — Morris was going to do everything he could to take advantage of it.
And, after two strong preseason performances, that opportunity came Monday, when the team decided Morris was going to take reps as the No. 2 quarterback as it begins preparations for its third preseason game on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Morris said his time with the third-string offense "made me a better person; made me mentally stronger." Practice reps oftentimes can be few and far between, so he had to make the most of the chance to sit back and watch and learn.
"You know, this game is not only a physical game, it is truly a strong mental game," Morris said. "And you have to be mentally strong and be prepared for anything, just as life."
That Morris was able to move up and take snaps with the second unit this week might be no surprise considering how well he has played in preseason games with the Colts dating back to last season. In 2016, he connected on 39-of-61 passes for an NFL-leading 531 yards with four touchdowns to one interception.
This year, he has been inserted onto the field about midway through the fourth quarter of the Colts' two preseason games against the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys, and has completed 24-of-35 passes (68.6 percent) for 205 yards with one touchdown and no picks; against the Lions, he led the team to its only touchdown drive of the game.
So what is it about those game situations that brings out the best in Morris?
"I don't know. It's just being out there having fun," he said. "Being in the huddle with your guys not having to worry about who's behind you — the coaching staff, the head coach behind you. I mean, it's just you and your teammates out there having fun. And I think we just need to do a better job of getting back to that. I think we are starting to get into a groove as a unit, and I think that this week against Pittsburgh is going to even be better."
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano on Monday confirmed that Scott Tolzien will continue getting the first-team reps at quarterback this week heading into the Steelers game. He said he isn't considering a scenario in which Tolzien and Morris would alternate series in the game.
"We'll see how the week goes," Pagano said. "Scotty's still going to get his amount, and Stephen will get the second-team reps.
"We need continuity," he continued. "And like I talked about after the football game, having guys in and out of the lineup constantly, whether it's at the offensive line, the tight end position, the wide receiver position, running back, it's hard. So we're looking to find 11 guys — get some guys back, get some guys healthy and get those guys playing together so they build some chemistry and some continuity, and a feel for one another."
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