READY ALL THE TIME

As part of its look back on the 2010 AFC South Championship season, Colts.com is examining some of the many players who personified the team's 'Next Man Up' approach. This entry: tight end Jacob Tamme.

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Veteran Jacob Tamme Stayed Ready and Played A Huge Role in Colts Offense in 2010
INDIANAPOLIS – Jacob Tamme knew all about the approach.

Tamme in 2010 finished his third season with the Colts. Having been around the organization two seasons, he said no way did he not know the team's 'Next Man Up' motto.

He knew the team's philosophy of lesser-known players needing to play when needed.

And he knew the expectations that such players play well.

But Tamme, a tight end who emerged in his first two seasons as a valued member of the team's special teams, said the reality was while he knew the approach – and while he had confidence he could play and play well – he never actually had had the opunity to perform on offense.

That chance came this past season.

And Tamme more than took advantage.

"The key is really staying ready all the time," Tamme said recently late in the 2010 season, a season in which the Colts won a seventh AFC South title in eight seasons and a season on which Colts.com will continue looking back in the coming weeks.

Tamme said that's what he tried to do for nearly two and a half seasons.

His chance came in late October of this past season.

Dallas Clark, the Colts' eight-year veteran tight end and a 2009 Pro Bowl selection, sustained a wrist injury in an October 17 victory over the Washington Redskins. When Indianapolis placed Clark on season-ending injured reserve soon thereafter, Tamme became the starter.

The Colts in 2010 placed more than a dozen players on injured reserve, a list that included not only Clark, but safeties Melvin Bullitt and Bob Sanders and cornerbacks Jerraud Powers and Kelvin Hayden. With the group out, a series of lesser-known players – to those outside the team, at least – and reserves were called upon to more high-profile, critical roles.

Tamme was one of those players.

"We knew Jacob Tamme," Colts President Bill Polian said late in the season. "The pundits didn't know Jacob Tamme."

Tamme, after playing sparingly in his first two seasons behind Clark, not only stepped in, he turned in one of the most productive seasons for a Colts tight end in franchise history. He started eight of the final 10 games of the regular season, catching 67 passes for 631 yards and four touchdowns.

"There was absolutely no question he was going to come in and play well," Polian said. "Jacob Tamme was an unknown to everybody but the people in this building, but when it came time for Jacob to play regularly, I said, 'Everybody in this building knows Jacob Tamme will play well.''

Tamme, a fourth-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft from the University of Kentucky, had seven or more receptions in seven games this past season, including each of the last three, and he had a season-high 11 receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown in a November loss at Philadelphia.

"He can run and catch," Colts coach Jim Caldwell said of Tamme during the season. "He is a good route- runner, and he is a tough guy. He has been very involved in our special teams the last couple of years, and I think that's helped him.

"He was able to step right in and move right along and do some good things for us."

Tamme's performance enabled the Colts to maintain their productivity from the tight end position. Whereas Clark caught 100 passes for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2009 the pair combined for 104 receptions for 978 yards and seven touchdowns last season.

The primary challenge he faced, Tamme said, was not necessarily being physically ready, but having the proper mindset week after week – even on weeks when playing a small role, or only on special teams.

"You never know when your chance is going to come," Tamme said. "It could be in the middle of the first game of the season, or it could be the last play of the last game as a backup. I think the challenge is to be mentally on top of it every single week."

At times, Tamme said, that can be harder than it might initially seem. But he also said the reality is a backup must always be mentally attuned to the game plan and to what the offense or defense might be doing. If he isn't, the chances to hurt the team with a lack of preparation are numerous and very real.

"You can probably find some other professions where someone who might be 'a backup' could understand the same scenario," Tamme said. "You do the same thing over and over in the first 13 weeks, and then the 14th week there's one play that you run that they put in when you were a backup and not even playing. That's what I mean when I say it's tough in that way.

"It's mentally straining to be on everything all the time when you're not seeing the field. That's the hardest thing, is really taking that to heart over the last couple of years."

Tamme also said it's something that became easier – comparatively speaking, anyway – in the last two seasons.

"Honestly, it's especially tough as a rookie," Tamme said. "It takes a year to learn the whole offense, anyway. I think that's the challenge. I felt very prepared when it was my time this year."

Tamme said the past year was important in another sense – that while the Colts may have known he was ready to contribute, and while he believed so, too, he hadn't proven it to himself. Tamme in his first two NFL seasons emerged as one of the team's top special teams players, but with Clark playing in 31 of 32 possible games, Tamme's opportunities in the offense had been limited.

Tamme started the regular-season finale in 2009, and in two seasons had caught six passes for 47 yards.

"You always want to do it on the field, and you want to do it in game conditions," Tamme said. "It's good to get in there and make plays. It's invaluable. I felt extremely ready, but you go out there and every time you go on the field, it's a learning experience."

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