Over half of the Colts skill position players will walk into M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon ready to embark on the final phase of a first year in the NFL they will never forget.
From the combine in February, through the dog days of training camp, and now into the postseason, the Colts rookies have already dealt with a wealth of experiences that some players in the NFL never take part in over their careers.
Running back Vick Ballard will compete in his 20th game this weekend when including the preseason and admitted this week is a bit different from the previous ones.
“It’s the playoffs. If you lose, you go home,” Ballard said. “We are definitely not ready to go home so you prepare that much harder and prepare more to attention to detail.”
At this point of the season, the Colts rookies don’t really consider themselves first-year players anymore and their coaches have echoed the same sentiments over the past month.
Tight end Coby Fleener had to balance finishing up classes at Stanford University during OTAs while getting acclimated to life in the NFL.
Fleener realizes his fellow rookies are technically still ‘rookies’ but at this time of the year that term need not apply.
“You can’t use that as an excuse or crutch,” Fleener said of the ‘rookie’ label. “Guys have played enough football in the NFL so far to be able to do their job. Guys realize it’s win or go home at this point so they are going to play like their playoff lives are on the line.”
Fellow tight end Dwayne Allen believes he will have a different feeling when walking on that field Sunday afternoon.
Allen compared it to the jump from the preseason to regular season, knowing that the intensity is ratcheted up and also realizing the opportunity that awaits his teammates.
This weekend’s experience is one of hopefully many for the Colts rookies but the future will be put on hold in relishing this year’s chance to continue something special.
“Coach Pagano told us before the season that we are not in a rebuilding phase,” Allen said. “It’s more like reloading because we’re here to play now. We’re not building for next year and year’s to come. Even though we plan to be successful in year’s to come, it’s about now.”
Tags: Coby Fleener, dwayne allen, vick ballard
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