Colts RB Ball Wants to Play His Role, Wait His Turn
INDIANAPOLIS – He's well aware of his situation.
Lance Ball knows the perception, and he knows the odds.
Ball, a second-year running back from Maryland, recently said there's little doubt what most people think of his chances to make the Colts' roster entering 2009 training camp. He said one word likely sums up most people's thoughts:
And he said that's fine. It's just not his perception.
"They have a couple of guys ahead of me who have been here for a while," Ball said recently during the Colts' offseason conditioning program at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
"A lot of people don't know about me, but when I had my opunity, I was able to go in there and get the job done. I want to be kind of the X-factor: throw that little card out and still be able to get the job done."
Ball's opportunity came in the regular-season finale last season. And he did more than just get the job done.
He not only got a chance to play in a 23-0 Colts victory over the AFC South Champion Tennessee Titans, he rushed for a team-high 83 yards on 13 carries. It was his lone NFL experience, but for Ball, it was more than a big game in a season finale without postseason implications.
It was a time to make his name, to get noticed and to get momentum for this season.
"It helps your credibility, gives you a little half star on your belt," Ball said. "It gives you some confidence and you say, 'I've done it before, so I can do it again.'"
Ball, who originally signed with the St. Louis Rams as a free agent shortly after the 2008 NFL Draft, started two seasons at Maryland, rushing for 2,487 yards and 26 touchdowns. He signed with the Colts in mid-October, and was inactive until the season finale.
Because he signed in mid-season, Ball said he never felt he quite fully grasped the Colts' playbook.
That's something he tried to change this offseason.
"I just wanted to get in there and learn the playbook," he said. "I wanted to get comfortable with it and learn it where I can get out there and play fast and I can play my game, so I don't have any doubts what I have to do. I want to play my role and be a role player right now and wait for my opportunity. . . .
"It took a while to get used to the system. You're not going into the easiest system in the world. There are two- or three-year veterans who are learning the system. It took time. I tried to learn as much as I could."
Ball said the offseason helped in another way, too – to help him feel more a part of a team.
"I'm coming into this year with a little more confidence," he said. "Last year, I really didn't know what to expect. This year, being around in the offseason, you're able to build relationships in the offseason and feel like you're a little more part of the group now. That helps a lot with your confidence. Your aura, your whole feeling – it just feels a little bit better. It feels like you're here, and once you're here, you're here."
"I think you have to be (confident). You can't really doubt yourself. You can't start to think negative or low of yourself. I think highly of myself. I think I have all of the attributes and talent in the world to play in the NFL. I think it comes from different organizations. My rookie year was nuts. I was with the Green Bay Packers in their minicamp. They didn't sign me, then St. Louis signed me through OTAs and training camp. I went through the preseason there.
"It was really just waiting on my opportunity, getting a chance to play."
The Colts in recent years have developed a reputation for giving young players such opportunities, a factor that Ball said gives him confidence that no matter the odds facing him in the coming months – and no matter the perception – he will control his fate. And really, he said, that's all a player can ask.
"I was on the cusp of being drafted/not drafted," he said. "I came in being a free agent. When (Colts President Bill) Polian and coaches around here talk to you, they say, 'You're not here just to be a markup, a walkup. You're here because we believe you can help the organization.'
"Here, it's apparent they mean it. With (former running back) Dominic Rhodes – a lot of free agent guys come in here and have great opportunities and great careers here. You kind of get the drift."