STILL LEARNING

Colts center/guard Jamey Richard, a seventh-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, started seven games as a rookie this past season. Richard said he played far more than he expected as a rookie, and that when he looks at last season, there is much on which he can improve.

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Colts C/G Jamey Richard Using Rookie Experience to Prepare for Second Season

INDIANAPOLIS – Jamey Richard never imagined his rookie season would go as it did.

He didn't imagine he would start his first game.

Nor did he imagine he would be an integral part of the Colts' offensive line.

And while Richard never much doubted that he would handle himself well if those things did happen, he said the past isn't what matters now – it's what he does in the future. And toward that end, the past will only help.

Because Richard said he's experienced beyond what he could have imagined.

Now, he said, he must use the experience to his advantage.

"I played a lot more last year than I ever expected to," Richard said during the Colts' recent organized team activities sessions. "I don't know how many snaps I'll get this year, whether it will be one, or whether it will be more than that. My focus is to go out there and every snap I do get, try to make the most of it.

"I want to get better every time I'm on that field."

That, Richard said, was the approach he took as a rookie.

It was an approach that enabled him to perform at a high level in circumstances few – particularly Richard – expected in April of 2008.

Richard, a seventh-round selection in the April 2008 NFL Draft, spent last offseason preparing for what he expected to be a backup role. But in the Colts' system, rookies are often asked to play contributing roles and when three-time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday sustained a preseason knee injury, Richard was doing more than contributing.

Richard, who played collegiately at the University at Buffalo, started not only the Colts' opener against the Chicago Bears, but seven games overall, including three at guard.

Richard started the first two games of the season at center, then started three at left guard in early October. After the Colts moved a bit toward full strength in November, Saturday missed two more games in late November and early December. Richard started those games at center.

"I feel comfortable at both of them," Richard said. "Both of them, I have a lot of things to work on."

Richard said that sort of versatility is a necessity for Colts offensive linemen, enough so that when asked his position, his reply is, "Interior O-line."

"I've played a couple of different positions," Richards said. "I wouldn't say you really attribute a position to yourself until you earn that starting job."

So, there might be a day when he would specify a position?

"That day hasn't come yet," he said.

Richard said earning that starting job means just that – earning it, and he said the concept of winning a job through competition and preparation is one he doesn't mind.

"I think it makes everyone better," Richard said. "Competition is a good thing."

What else was good, Richard said, was being forced into the starting lineup last preseason. Rather than wonder throughout an entire season if perhaps he could or could not play at the professional level, Richard said he had no choice but to learn the answer quickly.

"When you come in, there are a lot of questions," Richard said. "When you get on that field, are you going to be able to handle it or not? How are you going to react to being out there? Getting thrown in early didn't allow the butterflies to just sit in my stomach. It got them out early.

Still, when Richard spent time this past offseason reviewing games from the previous season he wasn't surprised that he didn't much like what he saw.

"I feel like my whole life, every time I've looked back on the film from the year before, I'm happy with some things, but there are a lot more things that I'm not happy with," Richard said. "At the time, maybe I didn't realize I wasn't too happy with it, but when you give yourself a chance to step away from it for a little while, then look back at it, there some things you start to notice."

Richard said he likes that feeling – of knowing there is much improvement to be made, and while he said he doesn't know how much he will play this season, he said he does know he wants to be a better player this year than last.

"I'm still young," he said. "This is going into my second year. There should be a lot of things I'm still learning and I just have to take advantage of the coaching staff and older players and try to learn as much as I can from everyone around me."

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