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INDIANAPOLIS – Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell made it official today – Curtis Painter will start at quarterback for Indianapolis for the Monday Night game at Tampa Bay.
Veteran Kerry Collins missed the final quarter of the Pittsburgh game last week with symptoms related to a possible concussion. Collins did not practice on Thursday and is scheduled to miss a second straight day of work. Caldwell addressed the topic on Friday.
"He (Collins) will not practice today," Caldwell said. "He's still going to get re-evaluated a little bit tomorrow, but he will not practice today. At this point, with two days of practice missed (there's) pretty important stuff that we've put in and it's tough to reclaim that at this stage. We will see how his evaluation goes, but Curtis (Painter) will end up starting the game.
"You can only really get one (quarterback) ready, that's the way it is in terms of the amount of time you have. (With) the amount of time you spend on the field, it is very, very difficult to get two guys prepared to play a ballgame. He's getting all of the work, and I think he will benefit from it as well."
Caldwell worked with the club's signal-callers from 2002-08 prior to becoming head coach. He was worked with numerous Colts quarterbacks who backed up Peyton Manning, and he can see the excitement the opportunity holds for Painter.
"He's pretty excited about it, there's no question about it," said Caldwell. "You can see it. He's always pretty level-headed, never too high, never too low. You can certainly see the focus and intent in his eyes, and he's always real focused anyway. He's excited about it.
"Every time he has been out there, he certainly has responded very, very well. I think you could see that in the preseason game that he played in an extensive amount, he performed well. After a couple of glitches in this past ballgame, he took the team down the field 80 yards. Obviously, he did a nice job there as well. I think with all the work and preparation, he will be fine."
Painter directed five drives last Sunday against Pittsburgh, hitting five-of-11 passes for 60 yards. He directed a late scoring march that knotted the game at 20 with 2:09 remaining. This will be the first regular-season action he has seen since relief appearances in the final two games of the 2009 season when the team was preparing for the post-season.
Painter did not meet with the media today, but he did speak yesterday about the possibility of starting his first career game on Monday.
"It certainly would be a great opportunity," said Painter. "I would enjoy that, and I'm sure it would be a lot of fun. It's a big game, a Monday Night game, so it would be very exciting. Any time you have one of those games it's exciting. To have that opportunity would be pretty cool. We'll go into it thinking that, and if anything else (is decided), we'll be prepared."
Joining the roster this week is seven-year veteran quarterback Dan Orlovsky. Orlovsky played previously with Detroit and Houston, totaling seven starts in 13 career games. It was Orlovsky and Painter who worked with the club in training camp, and Collins joined the mix on August 25.
For Painter, getting reps with the first unit in training camp paid dividends. It was not a position he had been in previously with Manning at the helm.
"It's one thing to get mental reps watching other people do it. It's another thing to actually be in there with the guys and getting actual reps," said Painter. "I think the biggest thing that helped me was this (training) camp, getting a ton of reps. I've gotten a few this year so far. I think the biggest thing in being comfortable with the offense is getting actual reps."
Painter was thrust quickly into the game last Sunday, and today's decision gives him time to approach the game knowing the starting dynamics. He spoke yesterday on how to prepare emotionally should the opportunity to start presented itself.
"I think at that point, I would know a little more and I would be prepared to calm down a little bit beforehand," said Painter. "I kind of got surprised by that one (last week). (It's) not an excuse, but, hopefully, I will know a little bit more going into this weekend, whether (I'm) up or down. I will use that (knowledge) to control it."
Colts receivers dealt with an offense being led by Manning for 13 consecutive seasons. It functioned with Collins for the first three games and now will have a second different starter in the first quarter of the season. Painter has thrown to the receivers for more than two years and threw to them heavily in camp. Tight end Dallas Clark sees no problem with receivers being acclimated with Painter.
"No (there will be no problem), especially going back to (Curtis) Painter (last week), he's been here so we're used to him," said Clark. "It's not a big difference going from him to Kerry (Collins). Painter is like your little brother. You know what to expect. That's not going to be an issue."
Caldwell discounted any question about offensive efficiency being an issue with a new starter for this week.
"That's what the passing game is, timing and accuracy," said Caldwell. "Those issues are all things that you have to work through, but that's why we practice. That's why we try to give ourselves enough opportunities to the things that we are going to run in the ballgame that we do get the timing and that we do get the precision that we're looking for. I think the guys will be able to do that. It's not like Curtis hasn't thrown to them in a long time, or anything of that nature. He's familiar with them (receivers), they're familiar with him. Still, that's what a great week of preparation is all about."
Caldwell is excited for Painter as well, and they both share the same trait of not getting overcome with emotion.
"He's not a guy who gets rattled. That's the thing I think is good," said Caldwell. "Even in preparation, he's not one that's going to be so excited that he can't get his job done, or can't get focused. He's very settled, but also there's an air of excitement about his opportunity. His level-headedness helps him, particularly when things are going good it's good to be level-headed. When things aren't going so well, you just have to have that fighting spirit to be able to come back and, 'Let's go see what we can do in the next series."