INDIANAPOLIS – Saturday marked the final day of full-practice preparation as the Colts meet Tampa Bay at Raymond James Stadium on Monday at 8:30 p.m.
Head Coach Jim Caldwell named Curtis Painter the starting quarterback on Friday, and Painter directed the team through three days of practice this week. He will be making his first career start after joining Indianapolis as a sixth-round draft pick in 2009.
Monday will mark Painter's fourth career game. He played as a reserve in the final two outings in 2009 when the team was preparing for the post-season. Last week against Pittsburgh, Painter replaced an injured Kerry Collins and directed the final five drives for the Colts. He led an 80-yard march that tied the game with two minutes to play, but Indianapolis fell at the gun, 23-20.
Caldwell was pleased with the way Painter has practiced this week.
"He's certainly made good strides during the course of the week," said Caldwell. "He's got good rhythm going right now, and yesterday's practice was very good."
A term Caldwell has used this week about Painter's style is 'unflappable.' Caldwell has worked with all manner of quarterbacks during his coaching career, and he likes what he sees in Painter.
"It's his personality (to be reserved and even-keeled)," said Caldwell. "He's one of those guys that's got a lot of inner strength. They say, 'still waters run deep.' That's what I think we see in terms of Curtis."
When asked Saturday if he were anxious for Painter's first career start, Caldwell assured his feelings were clear.
"I'm not certain exactly what you mean by 'anxious.' Anxious can sometimes have the (meaning) 'foreboding,' and I don't feel that way," said Caldwell. "He's excited about it, but I don't think he's anxious. I think he's excited about the opportunity, and so am I. I'm excited for him, and I think he's going to do a nice job.
"Curtis is one of those guys that is unflappable. He's been around the block a little bit. I've talked to him on a number of occasions. One time, when things may not have been going so well, I visited with him, and he said, 'I've been through this a couple times.' I think that's a good quality, but I think there's another side to him that wants to go out and prove that he can play and play well. He's shown spurts, and now he's getting the opportunity for an extended period to go in and get it done against a good team.
"Now, here's the other thing you have to understand, he can't do it alone. This is not a one-man game. This is a team game, and I think the guys will rally around him. Everybody's got to do their job, and that's extremely important. To think that he's going to go in and play this game perfectly, that's not going to happen. But will he go in there and play well? I think so."
Painter has been the recipient of vocal support from his teammates and along with the excitement he feels for his first career start, he appreciates their backing.
"I'm excited for it. It will be fun," said Painter. "It will be a great atmosphere. We'll go down there, give it all we've got and hopefully bring home a win. I'm excited to be out there with the guys. We had some success the last game, and, hopefully, we can carry that over with continued success.
"I think what gives you the most encouragement is when you have teammates that have confidence in you. I have heard from (that) from people close to me and Reg (Reggie Wayne) echoes that on the field in his mannerisms. I appreciate the confidence that the teammates around me are giving me."
Wide receiver Reggie Wayne has been among the most vocal backers of Painter. Wayne shares Painter's excitement and knows he and others must do their parts in his first career start.
"We're going to have to support him, go out there and make things easy for him," said Wayne. "Curtis has a live arm. He feels like he can make every throw known to man. We have to go out there…it starts with the running game, keeping the defense honest. I think he will do fine, I really do. He has had a great week of preparation, a great week of work. Now, it's (go) out there and sling it."
Painter will be facing a talented Tampa Bay team that is 2-1 and competing well in the NFC South. He also will be playing in a new atmosphere and on a Monday Night stage in front of a rabid crowd and national television audience. It is a setting for which he has prepared for, and he is ready.
"The thing about them (is) they're very young, but they play extremely hard," said Painter. "They're the type of team that may not do as much stuff as some of the other teams we've faced, but they do it really well. It will definitely be a challenge for us to be on the details, recognize what they're doing and attack it.
"I think it's a great opportunity going down there. I hear it's a great place to play. I've never played down there. It will be fun. I think we had a great week of practice, and I think that will help prepare us and get us ready."