INDIANAPOLIS – A busy month of activity that constituted training camp and preseason play ends Thursday night when the Colts meet Cincinnati in Paul Brown Stadium at 7:00 p.m. ET.
The Colts spent the better part of the month in training camp at Anderson University, and they have spent the last two weeks back at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center in Indianapolis.
In drawing a close to preseason play, the Colts will be trying to answer the annual questions about roster personnel.
This year's final game has a few different wrinkles however since the past month has been the only off-season evaluation period. Typically, teams have more off-season camps and practices, but that was not the case this year. Training camp has served as that only period for analysis and the scope of evaluation will be broader in game four than it has been in past preseasons.
Also different is Indianapolis working a veteran quarterback in the finale, but the club will do that Thursday in putting Kerry Collins on the field. Collins signed late last week since Peyton Manning spent the better part of the past month on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Manning was taken off the list this week, but Collins needs to get work in the club's offense.
Head Coach Jim Caldwell has known Collins since the two were paired at Penn State about 20 years ago. Caldwell has been but a small part of the crash-course in getting Collins acclimated to a new offense.
"He's getting a good feel for it," said Caldwell. "We've been trying to saturate him with it as much as we possibly can. He's been working day and night. (Quarterbacks Coach) Ron Turner has been really counseling him along the way, and trying to utilize every waking hour possible. I think it's certainly given him a chance to at least get familiarized with it somewhat. Now, obviously, the practices are extremely important, but he's got to get some time in the game as well."
Collins is a veteran of 16 seasons and five different teams. He twice has helped teams to conference title games, and he has played in a Super Bowl. With that vast experience, he still needs work with the Indianapolis offense.
"I'm looking on giving him the experience of operating the offense in a game-type situation," said Caldwell. "There are so many things that you can simulate in practice, but it's a little bit different in the ballgame. The nice thing about it is the fact that he's been in it. He understands concepts. He understands (the) basic philosophy of what we're trying to do. He's way ahead in that regard. All he has to do is try to transpose things that he already knows and is familiar with with a little different terminology. So we're looking for the operation, giving him an opportunity to get a sense of how to function within this offense in a game. That's really what we're looking for…There's quite a bit, a pretty broad range to our offense, but he's picking it up rapidly."
Recently after his tutorial started, Collins felt good about how he was progressing.
"It is going to be a challenge. It is like learning a new language," said Collins. "The contents are the same. There isn't a concept I haven't seen before, but it is, 'What do you call protections. What do you call routes? What are the adjustments on this or that?' Those are all the things that I am going to have to learn…I have been grinding away in the meeting room with Coach (Ron) Turner. I feel like things are starting to click."
Caldwell's familiarity with Collins was a part of history until recently. Their roles now present a different situation than when they first worked together.
"My role is different, obviously. So that's a different dynamic," said Caldwell. "I was an assistant coach and his position coach at that time, so you spend a lot more time together. I certainly got to know him extremely well during that time period and through the competition through the years, we've had an opportunity to see one another prior to games and afterwards. I've been able to keep up with him, but the dynamics have changed. I don't coach him directly in this setting, that's Ron Turner's job and (Offensive Coordinator) Clyde's (Christensen) with the offense and things of that nature. I have a good relationship with him, but a lot of us do here…He's a quality guy…It's just a little bit different in terms of my position."
Tight end Dallas Clark is one of many offensive players who have been working with Collins this week as the quarterback new to the club will get his first Colts action. Clark has enjoyed the new relationship.
"It's been great. He's done a good job," said Clark. "How someone steps in and learns this offense, he's done a pretty good job. He throws a really good ball, and he's been around for a while, so he knows how things go. It's been good working with him, and trying to get everything on the same page."