THE FIRST TIME

Although the Colts' game Sunday against the Buffalo Bills is a preseason game, players and coaches said this week it's special. And it's an important step in their new home - Lucas Oil Stadium - beginning to feel like home.

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Colts Anxious to Play Preseason Opener in Lucas Oil Stadium
INDIANAPOLIS – They have looked it over, inside and out.

The Colts' players and coaches have toured Lucas Oil Stadium, the new, state-of-the-art facility in downtown Indianapolis where they will begin playing home games this season. They have practiced there.

They have seen the locker rooms and scoreboards. They know where to park.

Now, comes the next phase:

Playing a game.

And although the Colts' game Sunday against the Buffalo Bills is just a preseason game, it's still a game, and Colts players and coaches said this week that makes it something special, and makes it an imant step in their new home feeling like . . . like . . .

Well . . . like home.

"We're real anxious," Colts middle linebacker and defensive captain Gary Brackett said this week as the Colts (1-2 in the preseason) prepared to play the Buffalo Bills (1-1) Sunday night at 8 p.m. in a preseason game that will be the first NFL game played in Lucas Oil Stadium.

"Playing somewhere for the first time is always fun. Obviously, our fans are excited about being in the stadium and we're just as excited about playing.

"It is a home game – our new home. I'm sure it will be fun."

The Colts played home games the last 24 years in the RCA Dome, which sits across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium, a retractable-roof facility with moveable window wall that has been under construction the past two years.

The first NFL regular-season game is scheduled to be played in Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday, September 7, when the Colts play host to the Chicago Bears.

But Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said getting acclimated to the new stadium before a regular-season game was important. The process began on Tuesday, when the Colts held their first practice there, and will continue Sunday.

"I'm pretty excited," Dungy said. "It will be fun, even though it's just a preseason game. I think our guys going in there Tuesday with no crowd at all were excited and had a very good practice just because of the atmosphere, so I think it's going to be great.

"I think opening up new places is always fun. It's not very often you get to do it. But especially for our veteran guys, seeing the difference between the (RCA) Dome and Lucas Oil – just feeling that pride and that environment – it's a difference and it will be good for us."

Dungy, who was the head coach in Tampa Bay in 1998 when the Buccaneers moved from Tampa Stadium to Raymond James Stadium, said "one thing you learn (moving stadiums) is the stadium doesn't win for you or the amenities or the crowd."

"You still have to show up and play," Dungy said. "I think we will."

Said Colts tight end Dallas Clark, "It will be fun. It will be awesome to open up the stadium, just to have the fans geared up, but it's important for us to be out there for the preseason games, just so we're not lost or we can find the locker room and kind of get comfortable with our surroundings.

"That's what will be beneficial for this preseason game, not only getting better on the field, but getting used to the new routine that we'll have."

Dungy said this week there's more to the game against Buffalo than becoming accustomed to surroundings.

The game is the second-to-last preseason game, traditionally the closest thing to a dress rehearsal NFL teams have during the preseason. Dungy said that's how the Colts will approach the Bills game, with the team having game-planned for Buffalo throughout the week and with the first-team offense and defense expected to play deep into the third quarter.

"We're taking the time to break things down and see what tendencies they have, what they like do to on offense and defense – plus our ones should be out there a little bit longer," Brackett said. "I think it will be a good gauge heading into the season."

The Colts throughout the preseason have spoken of wanting consistency from the first-team offense and defense. Dungy said following this past Saturday's preseason victory over the Falcons that he was disappointed with the number of mistakes the Colts committed throughout.

The first-team offense in the preseason has had three extended drives – with each ending in a field goal – and also had drives end in a punt, interception and fumble.

"If there's been one thing disappointing about our offense in general it has been our red-zone production," Dungy said. "We're zeroing in. We took a lot more plays in the red zone this week just to put a little more emphasis on it. Overall, it hasn't been bad. We've move the ball well and that's what we'd like to get, some consistency."

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