INDIANAPOLIS – The reality of facing a difficult defense and a talented division foe on Sunday is keeping Dan Orlovsky grounded.
Otherwise, he might be excused for walking on clouds, or, at the least, reprising the Jimi Hendrix lyric, 'Excuse Me While I Kiss the Sky' as he thinks back over the blessings of the last 12 days.
Orlovsky returned to Indianapolis Wednesday night after witnessing the birth of sons Noah Patrick, Hunter Daniel and Madden Lesher with his wife, Tiffany, earlier in the day.
Today, he was immersed in full preparations for when the Colts visit Jacksonville on January 1.
Orlovsky's goal is to make the first day of 2012 as fulfilling as the final 18 days of 2011 were for him, professionally and personally.
The joy he felt in becoming a first-time father likely exceeded the highs he has felt recently with Indianapolis. Orlovsky led the Colts to a 27-13 victory over Tennessee on December 18, his first win in 10 career starts and 19 career outings. In a start five days later against Houston, Orlovsky directed a 78-yard drive in the final 1:50, capping off the march with a one-yard scoring pass in a 19-16 Colts victory – his first game-winning comeback effort.
Orlovsky acknowledged after that game the victories would make Christmas a little sweeter for his devout family, and being in the delivery room with Tiffany for the birth of their sons supplemented what has been a time of joy on every front.
"It's been a whirlwind, obviously (I'm) very excited," said Orlovsky. "I was very thankful for that (the opportunity to be there). I wouldn't have missed it. It was convenient to be home after the win and be home for a doctor's appointment. For what transpired, it was obviously good to be home. …It's (the birth) very similar to what everyone describes it as. It's a surreal feeling. It was real emotional for my wife and I. We're very excited. We're looking forward to it (parenthood). The timing worked out. It could have been a couple of weeks earlier. It's an amazing experience."
Juggling family life with any work site is difficult for expectant parents. In Orlovsky's case, the recent challenge came after being cut by the Colts in training camp, re-joining the team about a month later, then getting the starting nod four weeks ago. The year has been a period of ups and downs for the Orlovsky's but they find mid-December very much to their liking.
"It's been a fun ride," said Orlovsky. "(I've been) very blessed to sit back and watch it unfold. I was having some long talks with my wife about (things). Her and I are very strong in our faith. We said it's funny to sit back after some difficult years of watching God's plan unfold, of me being cut in (Colts) camp. At the end of camp and getting home, thankfully finding a blood clot in my wife's pelvis during her pregnancy which, if I was not home, who knows if we would have been able to? Now, being able to win last week and being able to be home that one extra day (Monday) when we found out that we were going to have the kids. It's been a few-week ride that's been enjoyable to be on."
The enjoyable ride meant Orlovsky had to coordinate a period between last Thursday's win and Wednesday's births, which occurred one per minute starting at 9:44 a.m. He could not be two places at once, and he is deeply grateful for the understanding of all involved parties.
"As difficult as it is to leave, I know my wife is in good hands," said Orlovsky. "I'm lucky I have a good (wife) who lets me leave. She could very easily say, 'You're not going anywhere.' I'm not with them right now. They're not at a hospital in Indianapolis where I could go see them for a few hours, unfortunately. It (the situation) allows me to come here and focus on my job. I think the guys in this locker room know I will be ready to play. I told Coach (Caldwell) that when I called him and let him know I probably was not going to be here on Wednesday. I said, 'I'll be ready to go.' I got the game plan via email and all my film was on my IPad. I definitely will be ready to play. It's back to football. I'm fortunate in that aspect when it comes to football. I'm unfortunate being away from them."
Now, the Jaguars. That meant Thursday's practice and the first time in a week Orlovsky was plying his trade.
"I feel like I've approached it the right way every day," said Orlovsky. "I was a little more tired. Other than that, I felt good. It's weird, it's only been about a week (since the last game), but to shake off some rust and get to sweating again (was important). I thought it was good early on (in practice) to do some extra stuff. I think (Quarterback Coach) Ron (Turner) did a good job of pushing some drills so I would get going again. It was nice to be back out with the guys."
Part of what makes Orlovsky appreciate the blessings of the last two weeks is his NFL career path. He spent 2005-08 with Detroit, including being a seven-game starter in his final season when Detroit was not able to post a victory. He was with Houston for the 2009 and 2010 seasons, appearing in but one game and without even throwing a pass. He then felt the sting of a training camp cut with Indianapolis before returning and enjoying a career high.
He is like all his teammates who are taking this Sunday as the last chance to compete this season. Orlovsky is not shy about enunciating what the opportunity means to him.
"This is a pretty special league. Very rarely do you get guys who say, 'This game is not really that important.' You guys have heard me say it's a week-to-week league. We have to continually go out and prove ourselves, not only for our team but teams that are out there also. You always want to have good film. That's how you play for a long time. We've also won two in a row. We've never been swept in our division (since Tennessee in 2002). That's important for this organization. It's a huge game for us because we're playing it this week. We'll be ready to play. We know Jacksonville will. It's a game. We're going out and competing, so it's important."