UNQUESTIONED IMPACT

As part of its look back on the 2010 AFC South Championship season, Colts.com is examining some of the many players who personified the “Next Man Up” approach. This entry: veteran running back Dominic Rhodes.

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Rhodes Gave Offense a Spark in Second Half of 2010 SeasonINDIANAPOLIS – The situation didn't surprise Dominic Rhodes.

And the expectations?

Well, the expectations he encountered when he re-signed with the Colts after an absence of more than a year didn't surprise him at all.

He had, after all, been around the Colts all but one season since 2001.

That, Rhodes said late this past season, was more than enough time to understand that when a player is on the Colts' roster, the age of the player and the contract status – and where that player was before – matters not a bit.

It's the core of the team's Next Man Up philosophy.

And while it was a key to the team winning its seventh AFC South title in the past eight seasons in the 2010 season, it was hardly a new theory. It has been talked about on a regular basis since 2002, when former Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy arrived as coach.

So, Rhodes said, no, he wasn't surprised to be playing – and contributing this past season in a big way – just days after re-joining the Colts during the regular season. Not in the least.

"We prepare better, I think, than anyone in the league," Rhodes said late in the 2010 season, a season in which the Colts won a seventh AFC South title in the last eight seasons, and a season on which Colts.com will look back in the coming weeks. "That comes from top to bottom, and it shows when we play. Guys go out and they make plays.

"Guys take it upon themselves to come in and be ready to play."

Rhodes, who spent 2001-06 with the Colts before re-joining the team for the 2008 season, spent part of last season with the Buffalo Bills, then played earlier this year with the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League.

When Rhodes did return, his impact was unquestioned.

That was true, his teammates said, not only on the field in production, but as a leader in the locker room.

"As far as the locker room, Dominic is going to be Dominic," Colts running back Joseph Addai said late in the 2010 season. "Now, I see him, he's more calm. He acts like a veteran. I'm not saying back then he wasn't, but you can see a difference between the (2010) Dominic and the (2006) Dominic.

"He just goes out there and plays and has fun. Like I said, in his 10th season, he's just playing ball and he's doing it well."

Rhodes, who has played on post-season teams in all but one of his Colts seasons, said the reason for the Colts' success in 2010 was the same as it had been from 2002-06 and 2008.

"There's a bunch of guys in here who know how to win," Rhodes said. "We don't put anything on any game more than the next game. Every game is about preparing for an opponent, and making sure we're ready. That's how we did it around here. We don't worry ourselves with outside stuff, and what people say and all that type of stuff.

"We let reers and all of that worry about that. We worry about us, and what we do. When we get to the field, things happen different than what people say.

"We know what time it is when it's time to play a football game."

When that time came this past season, Rhodes did what he often has done for the Colts the last decade. He produced.

Rhodes, who signed with the Colts in the 14th week of the season, did not play against the Tennessee Titans that week, then quickly re-established himself as a productive part of the offense.

He rushed for 172 yards on 37 carries, and had his biggest game of the season in a 31-26 victory over the Oakland Raiders on December 26. In a game that moved the Colts to within a victory of the AFC South title, Rhodes rushed for 98 yards and helped the Colts control the game's momentum in the second half.

Then again, when it comes to being ready when needed, that has been something at which Rhodes has excelled even before 'Next Man Up' became a Colts credo. In 2001, Rhodes' rookie season, he made the team as an undrafted free agent, then played sparingly the first six games of the season.

In Week 7, Pro Bowl running back Edgerrin James – the Colts' all-time leading rusher then in his third NFL season – sustained a season-ending knee injury in a Thursday night game against the Chiefs. Rhodes rushed for a touchdown and returned a kick for another, then that season became the first undrafted rookie in NFL history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season.

Rhodes missed the following season with a knee injury, but spent 2003-05 as a backup before starting in 2006, a season in which he helped Indianapolis to Super Bowl XLI, where he rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown to help the Colts to a 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears.

Rhodes was ready throughout his career with the Colts, and he said doing so this past season wasn't unusual. And considering the Colts' approach, he said it certainly wasn't a surprise.

"We played Tennessee a week after I got here, and a week later, I had a big game," Rhodes said. "It's just preparation. Our coaches get us ready.

"The guys take it upon themselves to get ready to play ball."

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