INDIANAPOLIS – The 2011 season has been dramatically different than what most Colts players ever have experienced in their NFL careers.
There are 40 current players on the active roster who never have completed a losing season in the NFL. One player in that number is defensive end Dwight Freeney, a starter and huge contributor to the team since 2002.
Freeney has been a terror on the field and needs just one and a half sacks to become the 26th NFL player with 100 career quarterback takedowns.
While Freeney has kept opposing signal-callers in his sights at all times, he keeps his sights set on victory, too. Whether 7-0 or 0-7, Freeney does not recalibrate his expectations.
"You go into the season with aspirations of winning them all, or losing maybe one, based on whatever," said Freeney. "You don't ever think something like this (0-7) is going to happen. Something is wrong with you if you think that. If you think you're going to have a horrible season, you shouldn't be here if you do. We go into every, single game thinking and knowing we're going to win. It doesn't always result in that, obviously, but it hasn't changed at least for the 10 years I've been here, regardless of who we play. It doesn't matter where (we play). This year it doesn't change, I don't care what our record is. It's the same thing every week, we're expecting to win."
To this point, outcomes have not met aspirations, but Freeney is not sidetracked from his approach. He would no more waver in his mindset than he would during a pass rush.
"I'm not even going to begin to start thinking that way," said Freeney of a question being posed about the team worrying now for next season. "I don't think it's in our DNA around here to think that way, regardless of what the outcome is. You have a lot of pride. You have to go out there and do your job. That's kind of what it is week-to-week, play-to-play. It's not going to change."
Nine remaining games represent more than half a season remaining for Indianapolis. The mentality is about scripting a better finish than the start has been for 2011. The current record is tough, but time is at hand to address correcting past results.
"We're not, obviously in a great place at all, and 0-7 is horrible. No one's used to it," said Freeney. "It would be easy to say, 'Hey, let's just give up and worry about next year.' That's not our mentality. That's not going to start any time soon of being the mentality around here. Next game, Tennessee, we've got to get a win. It's going to be the same thing every week. We're going to have to put something together, get some things moving on the right track and put some things back together so we can get back to winning."
Indianapolis endured a lopsided loss in New Orleans, 62-7. It was a game unlike what many players ever had experienced with the Colts. Freeney says the loss counted the same as any defeat the club has had by closer margins and it provides no more motivation than what is involved in a normal week.
"Every week, it's the same thing. It doesn't change," said Freeney. "It (New Orleans) was a horrible loss. The week before was a bad loss. The week before that was a bad loss. It (the New Orleans loss) still counts the same. No (he will not be more motivated because of last week's loss). We have to win. Here's the next week. We have to win. That's what we honestly try to do. The results may not be that all the time, (but) that is our mentality. That's what we go out there trying to do."
Some outside observers have wondered about the effort being expended by players this year. Freeney joins many Colts sources in disputing effort is a problem, and it never will be for the club. A lack of effort would go against the ethic Freeney has contributed to and witnessed for a decade.
"I can understand how you could look at that (the New Orleans result) and say, 'Look at the score, look what happened," said Freeney. "It must have been an effort thing.' I can get it. Trust me, it's not."
As for Freeney, he will continue with his preparation tactic that has worked for him through the years. He will prepare one week at a time, discount the past and worry about the future only when it hits his weekly calendar.
"As I've said before, when we were winning, it (his approach) was the same thing," he said. "You worry about that next opponent, and who cares what happened last week? That's not going to win you the game or lose the game. You have to worry about your next opponent. Tennessee doesn't care if it was a blowout or whatever happened. It's a league where you have to prepare every week and get ready to play every week separately."
COLTS FRIDAY NOTEBOOK (QUOTE-UNQUOTE): Jim Caldwell(on where the team will make future improvements) "From scratch. Right at the bottom, right at the basics. You just kind of look at everything, and that's what this kind of game will make you do. It will really make you analyze everything that you do. We certainly believe in what we're doing, there's no question about that. It will make you pare things down, reduce them a little bit more, try to do less and try to become better at what you do. That's where I think it leaves you." Caldwell(on Jeff Saturday's New Orleans post-game comments) "Well, I think what he was referring to was the exact, same thing I told the team. I told them we were outplayed in every phase, and I told them that I was, as a coach myself, that's who I was referring to. I just didn't think I did as good a job for them as I should have done. Obviously, that was with the way in which we played, that's my responsibility. I think that's probably what he's referring to more so than anything else, my statement in that regard, after the game in our post-game comments." Caldwell(on team's mindset at 0-7) "I worry about everything, even when we are in the hunt. So this is no different, it just takes on a little different flavor. Right now, obviously, we've got a division game coming up this week, which is big for us. Obviously, things right now have been fairly difficult for us, so we've got to see if we can get everything sort of headed in the right direction and perform a little bit better. That's going to be a key, because it's a good team that we're facing. But the big thing is that I'm not worried about future projections or anything of that nature. I'm worried about right here and now. Those are the things that we try to focus in on." Caldwell(on if there will be personnel changes) "We're not into knee-jerk reactions around here. We have to evaluate and make some decisions based on what we see and what we think is best for our team. We've been making some little moves here and there, trying to tweak some things to get ourselves in a little bit better position. We'll continue to evaluate, but we won't do anything out of haste." Caldwell(on if New Orleans loss will be used for motivation) "All these guys are extremely competitive guys. They don't like being embarrassed, nobody does. That certainly was indeed the case last night, so I think we'll use that as an opportunity for us to add a little fuel to the fire and see if we can get better. Also, I think our guys are intrinsically motivated as well, and they don't necessarily need any sort of external impetus to get us going. We understand where we are. We understand that it's been very difficult. We haven't performed well and we have to do better." Caldwell(on mood of the team) "It's certainly not pleasant, obviously, and you wouldn't expect it to be. But I think it's one that our guys are obviously showing the resolve. They're working on the things that we think that we can control, and that's been the focus. I think the group has been very unusual that way. Typically in a similar situation, it's tough to manage. But these guys are guys that have a lot of character and have dealt with adversity before in their lives and careers." Caldwell(on putting QB-Kerry Collins on IR) "It was kind of a constant evaluation, constant diagnosis and consulting with his medical situation (and) after everything was all said and done, (we) sat down to see where we were. It was the best solution for this particular point in time. He's a competitor, and you know how competitors are. He's had a long, good career, a great career, actually, playing as long as he's played. It wasn't an easy thing. I don't think anyone wants to see their career end that way. It wasn't easy." Caldwell(on WR-Anthony Gonzalez and his playing time) "At this point, he was active, obviously, and played a little bit against Kansas City, but sometimes it just depends upon what happens with the roster and where we are. We have to look at those things and make some determinations. Oftentimes, there's a guy or two that could help us that we can't dress. But I do think, just like anything else, that there's 53 guys on the roster for a reason. At some point in time you're going to see him come back, get an opportunity to play and he's going to play well. I probably would refer you back to my statements about Donald Brown a few weeks ago when he was in a similar situation. I think you're going to see the same thing happen with Anthony as well. He's been working hard. He's been trying to improve on a daily basis. He's got a great attitude, and at some point he's going to get an opportunity. (He is) focused, and obviously, trying to prepare himself so when he's called upon he can go in and do the job, which I certainly know that he will be able to." Jeff Saturday(on post-game comments on team being outcoached) "I didn't say that. I said that as a team we were outplayed, we were outcoached and there was nothing that we did better than they did yesterday. I've been in this game way too long to try to lay the blame on anybody else. No coach put pads on, we did. We didn't play well at all, and there's no scapegoat in this. If you can't look at all 53 guys and know that we all screwed it up, and we all got beat as bad as you can get beat. There are not enough fingers to go around, so we all share the same burden here and the same blame. We've got to get it fixed and go play better next week." Saturday(on whether there was a lack of effort in second half at Saints) "I don't know. It's always hard for me to judge people's effort. I've heard of that a long time in my career about effort, but the bottom-line is that we're in a wins-and-losses game. If you don't win, then it really makes no difference. We didn't play well. No matter if we played with effort or didn't play with effort, we got beat up and got beat. I've never met anybody on our team who hasn't given his 100 percent, and tried as hard as he possibly could. I know I do. Down 62-7, you're still trying to do the very best you can, because it's on tape. Somebody's evaluating you. Some fan who has followed you your whole career is watching to see if you're the same guy. I think that's the same for every player in this locker room. We give it the best we can, but that's not good enough to win games." Saturday(on being 0-7) "It's hard. I'm not happy with where we are as a team. I'm not happy with losing. There's nothing positive that we take out of last night. The only thing is, we get another chance on Sunday. That's the saving grace of this game." Saturday(on moving past loss to Saints) "Here's the thing, we got outplayed by a very good football team. The Saints are a good team, and we did not put forth a very good effort to try to match their style of play. They put a good one on us. But the reality is, like I said, in six days I've got to go play somebody else, and they're not going to feel sorry that I just got beat, 62-7. They could care less. They're trying to get a win as well. The one good thing about the game that we play is that you get another shot at it pretty quick. That's what we'll tell our guys. I hope everybody in this locker room understands that there ain't no quitters around here. We're going to fistfight until the day ends. I've got faith in the guys that I play with. I've got faith in the coaching staff. We're going to put together a good plan, and we'll come back against Tennessee and put forth a good effort." Dallas Clark(on locker room mood and the next step) "Obviously, getting a win would definitely help, but I think it's just testing everyone. I think it's testing everyone's character in this room and in this building, and I think we've got great guys. I think we'll definitely overcome it, but it doesn't make it any easier or anything like that. I think the collective morale is still positive. I think we truly understand that it's just little things here or there from preventing us from being where we want to be. We just have to take it upon ourselves to correct those." Clark(on the offense being different this year) "We learned this (in) week two, kind of where this was all going and what our personality as an offense was going to be. Definitely (we were) move forward more running the ball and setting up the pass and things like that. That's been something we kind of knew from the get-go with (Curtis) Painter and kind of helping him out and not putting everything on his shoulders (and) say, 'Go win us a game.' (We're) trying use everyone else. I think that's something we will continue to do." Clark(on his approach) "You look at it where we're all professionals. You sign up for 16 games. You hope you get some more (games in the playoffs). You're never guaranteed anything in this league. It's such a (tough league). You watch all the games, it's a play here, a play there, a missed (assignment), it's whatever. We've been very fortunate to be on the other side of things for quite some time around here. We didn't just show up and knew that (a winning season) was going to happen. It was just how it unfolded. This year's no different. You never knew what kind of year it was going to be, obviously with injuries and things like that…You just stay positive. You have to improve as a player each week, just like you would if you were leading the division. That mindset has to stay constant through this whole thing. It is very hard, but it's what we have to do. It's what we're here for, and you have to make a difference." Curtis Painter(on WR-Anthony Gonzalez) "I guess it's hard to say. The decisions aren't necessarily for me. The one good thing is I think a lot of guys have confidence in him. If he were to go out there, I think it's definitely good for our depth right now. I don't know if I can say 'surprised' he's not out there. I know if he is, he is a guy who's been around and will do a good job." Adam Vinatieri(on facing Tennessee) "Obviously, whenever you're playing teams in your division, I mean every game is important, but this one will have a lot of atmosphere involved with it. I know that they'll be fired up and their fans will be fired up. Whenever it's a divisional game, there's a lot of history there. History doesn't mean anything as far as winning and losing, but we're (as) familiar with their team, as they are with us. We know things that we can do well, and they do, too. Obviously, as far as that's concerned, it should be a fun game. We just need to play better." Reggie Wayne(on this week and facing Tennessee) "We've had a real good week of preparation. This would be a good time to get something going, a division opponent against Tennessee, who is playing pretty solid right now. I feel like this will be a good match for us and a good time to get it going. We've had a great week. Guys are still enthused, even with the 0-7 record. Guys feel good about the game plan. This would be a good time to get a win under our belt." Wayne(on if teams are feeling sorry for the Colts) "Absolutely not. This organization has been winning for the last 10 years. This is a time to get, 'Get back.' We've definitely got to make it hard on them. We just have to go play ball. I think if we just stop shooting ourselves in the foot with turnovers and giving up big plays, we'll be in the game. If you're in the game toward the end, anything can happen. As long as we avoid those torpedoes and hopefully we'll balls to bounce our way a little bit, things will be on the up-and-up. One thing about it, there are a lot of guys in the locker room who have not experienced a regular season win. We have a lot of young guys on this team and a lot of young guys have contributed, if we can get things going our way and get a 'W' sometime soon, kind of get that winning feel in the locker room, I think guys will enjoy the feeling and want it every week. We have to get one going, and hopefully that's this week."