INDIANAPOLIS – When the Indianapolis Colts return home to Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday against Kansas City, quarterback Curtis Painter will return to the starting lineup.
Tabbed to start last Monday's outing at Tampa Bay, Painter was revealed Friday by Head Coach Jim Caldwell as the opener under center for Sunday's game.
"There's no question he's our starter," said Caldwell. "He's been practicing well. I thought he performed well last week. He did what we asked him to do, and I think you're going to see even a little bit better performance this week."
Painter opened for veteran Kerry Collins, who during the Pittsburgh game two weeks ago experienced symptoms related to a possible concussion following a second-half hit from linebacker James Farrior. Collins experienced light-headedness following the hit and Painter directed the final five drives of that game. Collins participated in practice on a limited basis on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
"I think getting the experience is good," said Painter on Friday about his second start. "I hope it (the experience) transfers to this game. That's what we're hoping for."
In his first career start, Painter was 13-for-30 for 281 yards and two touchdowns for a 99.4 rating. He directed the Colts to a 10-0 first-half lead and to a 17-10 advantage late in the third quarter. Painter hit wide receiver Pierre Garcon on 87- and 59-yard scoring passes, becoming one of five Colts quarterbacks to have two 50 -yard scoring passes in the same game, and the first since Peyton Manning in 2004.
Painter's performance came as the club's offensive line endured a very difficult evening. Starting left tackle and first-round draft choice Anthony Castonzo exited the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury. Second-round pick Ben Ijalana subbed for Castonzo for nearly three quarters before suffering a knee injury that resulted in him being placed on injured reserve this week. Right tackle Jeff Linkenbach moved to the left side in Ijalana's absence and free agent Mike Tepper finished the game at right tackle after signing from the practice squad earlier in the day.
This week, the Colts re-signed veteran tackle Michael Toudouze. Toudouze has started one of seven games for the club after being a 2006 draft pick. The team also added free agent tackle Quinn Ojinnaka. Caldwell said Linkenbach will open at left tackle on Sunday. The team hopes to re-gain the services of right guard Ryan Diem. Diem opened the first two games before missing the last two with an ankle injury.
Painter recalled his first start and knows some moments were good and like any player, he knows there are areas on which to improve.
"We did some things well, scored a couple of times…(It was good) just continuing to learn experience," said Painter. "As much time as I got in the preseason with practice and games, it's (the experience) still a little different than the regular season games. Any time I've gotten a little bit of action in regular season games, it's been very helpful. I will certainly take that and try to build off it. I felt confident in the offense. I felt confident in what they (teammates) were doing. Overall, I felt comfortable in there, which is good.
"We probably weren't as good on third downs as we would have liked. The couple of shots we got in the red zone, we couldn't quite stick it in. We scored from big plays. We'd like to be more efficient in those areas. Any time you come out of a game you can look at things, and I think it's more evident when you lose. Those are probably the areas of focus."
Painter held a particular regard for his linemen and the effort they gave in a difficult circumstance with injuries and realignments against the Buccaneers.
"I was aware (of where guys were)," said Painter. "Our guys are pretty versatile, and you can move guys around. I think that helps out. I don't think there was no concern on my end. It's tough. Obviously, injuries are never fun. I think the guys who stepped in there did a pretty good job. Hopefully with the week of practice and trying to catch them up, they'll continue to do a good job. I don't think that's a concern. They guys here are pretty good. I think we will be all right. I guess the good thing is they've (new signees) been here for a while. We bring back guys who are familiar with the team, not necessarily a whole lot new faces but moving guys around."
Painter will face a 3-4 Chiefs defense under the direction of coordinator Romeo Crennel. Crennel faced the Colts last year and has done so on previous occasions while with other teams. Painter feels the Chiefs present a definite challenge.
"They're a good defense. They play hard. It will be a challenge for us, much like Tampa Bay was," said Painter. "They're not I guess the 'exotic' team like the New York Jets or the Baltimore Ravens, but they're very good and very solid. They do their stuff very well. It will be a challenge for us. We will take this week and try to find some ways to attack it. Really, it will be about us playing good football."
Tight end Dallas Clark prior to the Tampa Bay game likened what could be expected from Painter to be what could be expected from a younger brother. Painter has worked with the team since 2009, and teammates are familiar with his ability. After the Tampa Bay game, Clark had another view of the young quarterback.
"I think he learned a lot. I think we all did about him," said Clark. "I think he did a great job handling the pressure and handling the situation. He went out there and gave us a chance to win."
Wide receiver Reggie Wayne is pleased Painter is going to get a second start.
"He's getting a second chance to go out there and show what he's capable of," said Wayne. "He was able to go out on Monday Night, prime-time, and get some positive things done. Us as a team, we can do better. I think he would agree with that. He's getting a chance to maximize his efforts the best way he can. Hopefully, we can go out there and give him a good showing and help him out a little bit."
Painter is anticipating his first home start, and he knows the club's rabid fans will be behind the entire team.
"We've got a good fan base," said Painter. "They've been good all along, obviously in some tough situations for us, but they've been great all year. I expect the same. Having them cheering for us is huge."
COLTS FRIDAY NOTEBOOK (QUOTE-UNQUOTE): Jim Caldwell(on expectations of reserves when they play) "Any time we send somebody in the game, our expectations are that they perform well. Sometimes they may not have the number of reps you'd like, but that's up to us as coaches to try to make certain that we're doing things that they're comfortable with. We certainly don't want to get them in there and get them completely out of there element without any help or assistance." Caldwell(on challenges in putting together an offensive line) "It's difficult because no one is on the same level. Oftentimes, two things happen. Familiarity is a problem because some guys can do a little bit more than others. They know the system. Also, experience as well. Those things play a big part in it. You have to weigh and measure all of those things and hopefully get the right combination, particularly in the offensive line because it requires guys working in unison with one another. Communication and all of those things that they are accustomed to doing with one another (are important). When you have a guy that's unfamiliar with it, it takes a little bit of time to teach him. That's why you often reach back for guys that are familiar with your system." Caldwell(on the unsettling nature of injuries) "It's just the way it is. That's this game. It would be easy to say you hope those things wouldn't happen, but the reality is that it's going to happen. What you have to do is take a look at where you are and adjust accordingly. The only thing anyone really cares about is whether or not you win. So we have to get ourselves in the best position to do that." Caldwell(on players' comments that he thinks are positive when observer might think are negative) "I think often times what can be a little bit misconstrued I think of as a positive. You'll hear a player that will make a statement that some might deem to be outside the line of team dynamics. What people don't realize is that these guys love each other. These guys fight, grind and dig with one another on a daily basis. It almost becomes like a family. I think you could see that emotion with Eric (Foster) and his injury the other night. When something happens to a guy that's in their group it hurts them. Whether or not (the player) gets released, or has to go somewhere else or whether or not he is injured and cannot play. People think that dynamic is so unusual where they talk about it in a little bit different way than I see it. I see that as a positive. One of the things you'll find is interesting. These guys play for one another. They trust one another, they have a great relationship with one another and they have responsibility and accountability for one another. I think those are some of the things you'll see that come out every once in a while from a guy who says something that folks might view as something that can be fragmenting to a team. I don't see it that way." Caldwell(on Kansas City) "(The Chiefs) are no different than we are. They've had some injuries and things they've had to adjust to. I think you are going to see two teams that are hungry for a win and battling. Obviously, they have one (win) under their belt, but I know they're not satisfied with that. They have a very good group of guys playing for them on their offensive line. They have good, solid people upfront. They've been running the ball well. (Dexter McCluster) actually leads their team in both receiving, rushing and also in kickoff returns as well. They certainly want to get the ball in his hands. They are a very capable group. On defense, they are a good, solid team. You have to be able to block (Tamba Hali) and (Derrick Johnson), two guys that can rush the passer. They have very capable guys in the perimeter as well. It's going to be a tough battle." Caldwell(on the philosophy of taking a failed first-round pick) "Bill Polian will mention once in a while that Marv Levy, one of his tenets was, 'Always take a chance on a failed number one.' If there's someone who was a first-rounder, then there are a lot of people that will take that first-rounder anticipating that they may not get a full 60 minutes out of them, but maybe two quarters of that number one draft pick play out of them. Use them in a role, and there are some teams that do a great job of that. If you look across the league, there are some teams that will take those guys that have been number ones, plug them in and say, 'All I need is a quarter or two quarters.' Or, 'All I need is third down from this guy,' and try to utilize them that way." Adam Vinatieri(on the close nature of games in the NFL) "With the way football is now and has been for years, the majority of games come down to a margin of a touchdown or less, that's what usually wins games. Teams are so competitive and are so comparable that good teams find a way to make those two or three plays fall in their favor. Unfortunately, we haven't gotten over that hump yet like we did in the past. You never know when the two or three plays over the course of a game are going to come that will decide it. We have to make that play and get those things on our side. For sure, coaches point that out. We just have to do it." Vinatieri(on if Colts coaches point out the number of close games) "For sure. You can look at film and no matter if you win or you, you go back over the film and see there's plenty of room for improvement. If you get beat, there are plenty of good things that you've done, it's just the few plays that made the outcome of the game. We have to stay consistent. We have to stay positive. We just have to play a little bit better each week. I think over the last three weeks we're right there. It's something we need to clean up a little bit. It's something across the board – offense, defense, special teams. There are one or two things to clean up, and we'll get that done." Vinatieri(on if there is pressure on him to perform since margins are close) "There's pressure on all of us to perform well when the room for error is small. It tells each of us that we need to be precise in what we do. Points are a premium in every game, not just now, but always. Every point counts." Dallas Clark(on his message this week to teammates) "Focus on this week. Put all of the energy and focus on Kansas City and what they do. Do your job and try to improve each week. If we do that, not focus on the record, injuries and things like that and focus on our job, collectively we'll get to where we want to go. As much as we can keep out the negativity will be best." Clark(on team being competitive) "We're right there, but the reality is we have to find a way to win. You're in the fourth quarter and you have a chance to win or you have leads, we have to find a way to hold them (a lead). We have to find a way to extend them (leads) and get those wins. Getting close doesn't help much. You know you have a good enough team to compete, but you have to have a good enough team to win." Clark(on the O-line problems with injuries at Tampa Bay) "That's the ugly part of this game. You never want to end up in a situation like that. Every now and then it happens, and unfortunately it was that way for us this week. I think the guys that came in did as good as they could under the circumstances. It's tough to have musical chairs on the offensive line and expect the level of play to stay from where we were in the beginning of the game. That's their job. 'Next Man In' has been our motto. It's unfortunate, but I think the guys did as good as they could under the circumstance." Robert Mathis(on where the team is)
"You have to crawl before before you walk. We're sure enough crawling right now, but we'll bounce back."Mathis(on DT-Eric Foster, injured and on IR)*"My heart goes out to him and he is a very good friend of mine. Not just football, but off the field. He's a guy who doesn't deserve it. Things happen. If anyone can bounce back, it would be him. He has natural leadership qualities and he keeps the mood light. He's a guy you need in the locker room and he'll be sorely missed." Dwight Freeney (on if he feels like things are piling up on the team) "We had a lot of injuries last year. We've had a lot of injuries in years past. The difference between last year and this year is what our record is. That's really what it is. We can't really worry about it (injury situation) too much. We can only worry about who's out there, who's playing, who's performing with us now. It's very unfortunate, we've lost some guys and whenever you lose a guy, it's a little bit of a blow to you. It's a blow having a guy, a brother, someone who has been out there with you and (now) he's not there, it definitely takes its toll. It this game, though, it's, 'Next Guy Up.' Freeney (on the feeling in the locker room) "The feeling in the locker room being 0-4 is obviously different. Does it mean the season is over? No. It's definitely not a great feeling, and I think that's obvious. We're going to go out there and each week and just take that next step and win a game and after that, try to win another game. It doesn't relax. We're going to take this one step at a time, one game at a time." Freeney (on injury to DT-Eric Foster) "You never want to see one of your guys, or any guy, go down. That really show how violent this game really is. People kind of overlook that sometimes. You see guys running around, 'Oh, they'll be fine. They'll have a lengthy career.' I'm not saying he (Eric) won't, he can definitely bounce back. It can be all over on just one play, you just don't know what play it is, or if it happens or doesn't happen. You have to just go out there, give it your all and pray nothing happens."Freeney (on the pressure to make plays this week) "I don't think the pressure changes. Maybe from the outside looking in, you think the pressure is on. We already have enough pressure on us. We go out there every game trying to make every play. That doesn't change, regardless of what's happening, who's not there, what the offense is doing, what the special teams is doing. It doesn't matter. We have the same mentality."Reggie Wayne *(on what to expect from Romeo Crennel's defense) "We can expect a feisty, feisty group, a group that's eager to go out there and cause havoc. That's what he does. You can tell he's not big on guys with super household names. He gets guys that go out and get their job done. They do it the right way. We can expect them to come full-force. They're one game ahead of us, so they definitely want to come out and win games. We're going to have to come out and put our best foot forward. If not, he has the capability of calling defenses that will make us look bad."