INDIANAPOLIS—Antoine Bethea will be sporting a ball cap for a majority of Thursday night's trip to Cincinnati.
That's the sight for many Colts veterans come preseason game No. 4. But flash back to 2006 and that wasn't the case for Bethea.
The former sixth-round pick started the 2006 preseason finale against the Bengals and recorded six tackles, along with forcing and recovering a fumble.
"I was a young guy at one point in time and this is a very important game for some of those guys," Bethea said on Monday. "They are going to get a lot of important reps, offense, defense, special teams. They are going to be tired but they are fighting for a job, maybe not here but somewhere else. It's very important for these guys."
Just a few lockers down from Bethea is another Colts veteran who has gone from helmet to ball cap in the preseason finale.
Robert Mathis battled a meniscus injury after being selected in the fifth-round of the 2003 NFL Draft.
"I was kind of sweating bullets just to get back and do whatever I had to do to make the team," Mathis said of the 2003 preseason.
Mathis will be a spectator late in Thursday night's contest but he will be actively watching players looking to follow the career path he has paved.
"Play every snap like it's your last," Mathis said of his advice to the younger players. "Don't take anything for granted and put everything on your resume."
An interesting storyline that has arisen on the offensive side of the ball this week is who will block Andrew Luck's blindside.
Starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo will not play on Thursday due to a mild MCL sprain.
Fellow offensive guard Mike McGlynn will also be sidelined with a bone bruise in his knee.
This has opened the door for the offensive line to create some much needed depth, and speaks to the importance of what the preseason finale can provide.
"It's another chance to go out and play," Joe Reitz, who will start for Castonzo, said on Monday. "Any time you've got the horseshoe on your helmet, we're excited to strap it up and play. It's another chance we get before the regular season, kind of the final dress rehearsal, we get to go out and a chance to get better."
While some key veterans will serve as spectators late on Thursday night, Chuck Pagano and his staff will have a keen eye on the entire four quarters.
The Colts roster will have to be cut by 22 names following the Bengals game and that leaves just 60 minutes for guys to make themselves necessary.
"We're still evaluating a bunch of guys," Pagano said. "Everybody understands and knows that following this last preseason game, 31 other teams including ourself have to get down to a 53-man roster. So, still a lot at stake for a lot of guys from an evaluation standpoint.
"When you look at our roster, we created so much competition and we're deeper across the board at all positions, so we're going to have to let some really good football players go. And they'll end up on other teams like everybody else's guys, but it's going to be tough."