READY TO RUN

Running back Joseph Addai said on Thursday he likes several things about his situation entering the Colts' regular-season opener against Chicago Sunday. Mainly, he said, he likes that his friend, fellow running back Dominic Rhodes, has returned to the team after a one-year absence.

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With Rhodes Back, Addai Said He Feels Better Than Ever Entering 2008
INDIANAPOLIS – As Joseph Addai sees it, there's much to like about his situation.

Addai, the Colts' first-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft and a Pro Bowl selection last season, early Thursday afternoon said he very much likes how he feels entering his third NFL season, how he feels more like a veteran and more comfortable than past seasons.

But mostly, Addai said he likes that his friend is back.

After a year spent with the Oakland Raiders, running back Dominic Rhodes – who shared carries with Addai in 2006 – re-signed with the Colts this past offseason, a move about which Addai said he hardly could be happier.

"Dom is probably the reason I've been having the success I've been having," Addai said as the Colts (13-3 last season), the five-time defending AFC South champions, prepared to play the Chicago Bears (7-9) in the first regular-season game at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday at 8 p.m.

"Coming in, first off, you have to get the respect of the older guys. First-round pick, free agent –you have to get that respect. Dom came in (in 2006) and made me feel comfortable.

"At my locker, in this area, he introduced himself to me and made me welcome."

Rhodes and Addai in 2006 formed one of the NFL's most productive backfields, productivity that helped the Colts to their first Super Bowl title since 1971.

Addai, who played collegiately at Louisiana State University, rushed for 1,081 yards and seven touchdowns on 226 carries in the 2006 regular season. He did so playing the regular season as a backup to Rhodes.

Addai started all four playoff games, and rushed 76 times for 294 yards and a touchdown while catching a team-high 22 passes for 118 yards.

Rhodes, meanwhile, rushed for 641 yards and five touchdowns on 187 carries in his only full season as a full-time starter in Indianapolis. He flourished in the playoffs as a backup, leading the team with 306 yards and a touchdown on 62 carries.

Against the Bears in the Super Bowl, Rhodes rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.

"I would imagine that's how it's going to go in the regular season," Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said Thursday. "Joseph will start the games, but Dom is ready to go. When Joseph needs a break, he'll go in there. We want to keep both of those guys fresh so that whoever is running in the fourth quarter is ready to go. That's what we really had in the playoffs that year and it was good for us, that we had a fresh guy in there when we had to make plays in the fourth quarter. Who that ends up being I don't think those guys care that much.

"They know they're both going to get to play. They know they're both going to get the ball their share of the time. It worked out pretty well. Hopefully, we can duplicate that."

Said Addai, "Any questions I had, I was able to go to him. I could ask him and he'd give me information. Just having somebody like that, that had been behind (four-time Pro Bowl running back) Edgerrin (James) and understood what was going on, it was always good to have that. . . .

"I feel like if I wasn't playing football, me and Dom would still be close."

Addai, the No. 30 overall selection in the 2006 NFL Draft, started 15 games last season, rushing for 1,072 yards and 12 touchdowns on 261 carries. He caught 41 passes for 364 yards and three touchdowns, with his 15 overall touchdowns the fourth-highest total in the NFL.

He also made the Pro Bowl for the first time.

Addai said during the Pro Bowl he felt the running backs as a group "could have put ourselves in a position to be better" late in the season. He averaged 100.5 yards per game in his first seven games of the season, and had four 100-yard games in that span. In the last eight games, Indianapolis averaged just over 75 yards a game rushing, with Addai rushing for just over 46 yards per game.

Dungy said the transition from backup to full-time starter likely contributed to the second-half statistics, and Addai said on Thursday that running more consistently as a team is a challenge facing the team this season.

"Football is all about challenges," Addai said. "That's probably another challenge that the running backs, the offensive line, the whole team, has to approach. That's a good thing because if you feel like you've done everything you have to do, there's no point in playing. That might be one of the things we want to work and think about this year.

"Obviously, we went 13-3, so we had a good year. You can always pick something up. You can always get better. That's something that we can get better on."

Dungy said on Thursday while rookie running back Mike Hart played well in the preseason and likely will have a role, Rhodes and Addai likely will play most extensively early.

"That will depend on those first two guys," Dungy said. "They're pretty good and we have a lot of confidence in Mike. Well have some certain things for him, but for the most part, I would think early on especially it will be Joe and Dom carrying the load."

And Addai said as was the case last season, he feels more ready for that load than he did the year before.

"I went from rookie year, not knowing anything at the beginning, to gradually getting comfortable," Addai said, "then, to the second year and feeling like I was a veteran, but it was only my second year and I just wanted to be able to pick up from where I did last year.

"Now, going into my third year, I'm feeling that much smarter as far as mental, so I feel good going into the season."

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