INDIANAPOLIS – The final whistle of practice sounded Wednesday for the Colts around 10:45 a.m.
The end of the second practice of the week drew a close to 14 straight weeks of competition for Indianapolis. This is the latest bye week the Colts have had in many seasons. Previous such weeks were observed typically in October, with the break in action coming at roughly the mid-point of the preseason and regular season schedule.
This year, the bye week is in the final weekend possible for NFL teams, and Indianapolis is joined by New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Houston in not playing this weekend.
After two days of practice geared to instruction specific for areas of needed improvement, the players adjourned for a four-day period of free time. It meant different things for different players.
"(I will) definitely enjoy a little R and R (rest and relaxation), and kind of step away from the locker room for a couple days," said offensive guard Ryan Diem. "Just kind of clear my mind, and I hope we can come back as a group and reconnect, and just get this thing rolling in the right direction. I think it's going to be good for everyone just to get away for a little bit and kind of step away and think about where we've been and where we need to go. Hopefully when we get back here guys will be rested, rejuvenated and ready to get back on the practice field and correct the mistakes."
Diem is a veteran of 150 career games over 11 seasons. Though he has missed parts of the 2011 season, Diem knows there has been a true grind this year with the bye week coming so late.
"It's difficult. We've never had a bye this late in the season," said Diem. "Usually we're kind of right midway in the regular season. It's been a grind and, obviously, it hasn't gone the way we wanted it to, but here's our chance to get away for a little bit and recover, recuperate and just regroup once we get back together. Get this thing headed in the right direction.
"There is a lot of the season left. This thing is not over yet. We might be out of reach of the playoffs, but there's still six games left. I know a lot of guys in this locker room have a lot of pride about themselves and are going to finish strong."
Diem is cognizant of the team's struggles this season. He is one of many proud veterans who can help right the process, and he knows what to identify.
"As (former Colts offensive coordinator) Tom Moore said, 'It's technique and fundamentals,' said Diem. "If we have some breakdowns in those areas, then it's going to show on the field. We've had some issues with that, so we need to be more consistent in all three phases of the game. We need to make sure that we execute better, and make sure that we're all getting our individual jobs done."
When asked if players look at this season that there are only so many days left to do what they love the most, Diem stated the season does move by quickly, and he sees effort coming from the players regardless of the situation.
"Absolutely, it goes fast. It seems like we were just in camp and had 16 fresh opportunities in front of us," said Diem. "Here we are 10 games and not where we want to be. Let's make the best of these last six games. No question, guys are playing hard. The downfall has been some execution and technique errors. The good thing is those things can be corrected, and they need to be. We sure hope they will be here in the near future so we can turn this thing around and wrap up the last six games on a positive note."
Rookie running back Delone Carter is one of the younger players in the locker room and part of the educational process the club takes with its newer faces is the importance of body maintenance. Carter is on board with it as he heads back to Ohio for a few days to rest.
"You've got to take care of the body, and you've got to eat right," said Carter. "Some people like to go home and consume a lot of bad stuff, but the bye week is such a short period of time when you really think about it. You've just got to stay on your things and get a lot of sleep."
Tight end Jacob Tamme has appeared in every game this season and saw his role increase recently with the injuries to Dallas Clark and Brody Eldridge. Tamme had been a special teams performer before starting last week for Clark against Jacksonville. Tamme is a fourth-year pro who knows the club's ways, and he is ready for a brief respite.
"No matter when it is, it's always time to get a little bit of work in and get some rest," said Tamme. "This year coach said we've had 14 weeks in a row here, going back to the preseason, of games. That's a long stretch, it's a long haul and it will be nice to get a little bit of a break. Obviously, it's been a tough year. It's been different than anyone could have ever expected. It's not been what we wanted and we're not where we want to be right now. The bye week, hopefully, it will be a positive thing to get away, get refocused, get refreshed, come back and get things moving."
Safety David Caldwell is competing at this level for the first time in his career. Caldwell was injured prior to last season and spent the year on injured reserve. His only experience on which to draw when describing the NFL grind is what he had in college.
"Being my first year, I've already played 14 games," said Caldwell. "Going to William and Mary, my first couple of years we played 11 and then I was at home for Thanksgiving. It's definitely been a grind, but it's exciting still. I look forward to going home and spending some time with family and friends, then coming back and getting ready for Carolina."
Veteran quarterback Dan Orlovsky knows the four-day weekend can provide a much needed mental and physical break, even if is just a brief pause in the routine.
"There's a reason we have them. I think they're huge," said Orlovsky. "People don't understand the stuff that you put your body through physically throughout camp, and a lot of it is mentally. You get to get away and you get out of a routine of almost a 'Groundhog Day' of coming in. Not that what we do is in a negative light, but there's a certain grind to it. I think that bye weeks are important, and a lot of times they fall at good moments. I think you can always put a positive spin on that. I think it's good for us to get away and not that guys won't think about football in the next couple of days, but to just get away from a routine."