Different positions. Same postseason.
After an offseason of fielding question after question regarding the switch from defensive end to outside linebacker, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are back in a familiar spot of playing in January.
Not only has the Colts pass rushing duo adjusted to new positions but they have also accepted another challenge upon the departure of many veterans in the offseason.
“This year is special because we have such a young team,” Mathis said. “I would say this year is more so of a leadership role for myself. A few of us kind of had that hat put on us to be the leaders and just lead the guys, just to lead by example and by your work on the field.”
Last season at this time, the Pro Bowl pair watched the playoffs from home for the first time in their NFL careers, making this year’s run that much more enjoyable.
“It’s very satisfying,” Freeney said. “Obviously we’re not done yet in our minds. But coming from a 2-14 season to winning 11 games, that definitely means a lot.”
The leadership role that Freeney and Mathis have embraced this year has continued this week in addressing what the atmosphere will be like come Sunday afternoon.
Both were on the field for the Colts 2006 AFC Divisional victory in Baltimore and have had a message for the young players making their playoff debut.
“Don’t really change anything that you’ve done to get you to this point because it has got you to the playoffs. Whatever you have been doing, keep doing it but just do it at a higher level,” Mathis said.
“The good thing about our young guys is that they listen. They are very humble and very attentive. So whatever we pretty much say, they take it to heart and they roll with it.”
With Freeney (11) and Mathis (10) both reaching the double-digit total in NFL experience, opportunities like this weekend are numbered.
Both realize that and are ready to make the most out of a chance Sunday afternoon.
“Obviously we’re doing tremendous things with a lot of young guys. I don’t know if there’s a record or what to that, how many wins with so many young guys on one team, I have no idea,” Freeney said.
“But we set goals at the beginning of the year. It wasn’t just to get to this point and that’s it. Our goals are to win the Super Bowl. This just happens to be the next challenge.”
Tags: Dwight Freeney, robert mathis
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The Indianapolis Colts today signed wide receiver Jabin Sambrano to a Reserve/Future contract.
Sambrano, 5-11, 175 pounds, was originally signed by the Colts as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Montana on April 30, 2012. He was placed on Injured Reserve on August 31 and was released on September 19. Sambrano was then signed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad on December 19.
At Montana, Sambrano started three seasons at wide receiver and tallied 1,787 career yards. In 2011, he earned second-team All-Big Sky Conference accolades while leading the team with 632 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.
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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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The last time the Colts traveled to Baltimore in the postseason, the year was 2006.
Memories are fond for Colts fans of an unusually warm January evening that was another chapter in the storied career of kicker Adam Vinatieri.
On a day when the Indianapolis offense struggled to generate touchdowns against the vaunted Ravens defense, it was Vinatieri’s right leg that carried Indianapolis into the AFC Championship.
“I remember then, just as now, they have a really good defense and we had a tough time getting it into the end zone that game,” Vinatieri said. “Fortunately, we made more field goals and had more attempts than they did. It turned out pretty good that day.”
Vinatieri was a perfect five-of-five on field goal attempts, accounting for all of the Colts points in Indianapolis 15-6 AFC Divisional victory.
In the opening frame, Vinatieri connected on field goals from 23 and 42 yards on the Colts first two possessions.
After Baltimore kicker Matt Stover hit a second quarter field goal, Vinatieri added a 51-yarder to end a 13-play drive and give the Colts a 9-3 halftime lead.
The second half began with Vinatieri converting a 48-yard field goal, pushing the Colts lead back to two possessions.
Stover would hit on a 51-yard field goal of his own early in the fourth quarter and Indianapolis would need one more clutch field goal from their potential Hall of Fame kicker to seal the victory.
That would come with 23 seconds remaining in the game as Vinatieri finished off a 13-play, 7:16 drive with a 35-yard field goal giving Indianapolis the 15-6 win.
These were not the Super Bowl winning kicks that Vinatieri is known for but without them, the Colts would have no been holding up the Lombardi Trophy three weeks later.
“In playoff games, you always have a lot of good teams playing. Games become a little tighter. Each individual play maybe means a little bit more and so every opportunity that you get, you have to make the best of it,” Vinatieri said.
On Wednesday, the 17-year veteran addressed his teammates on what playoff football is all about and what the Colts can expect in traveling to Baltimore this weekend.
Back on Jan. 13, 2007, only seven players currently on the Colts roster were even playing in the NFL. Vinatieri is trying to conjure up those same moments this weekend in delivering hopefully another historic playoff run.
“I think a lot of people outside of this building were surprised at where we’re at right now. I don’t think anybody in this room had any anticipations other than where we’re at right now,” Vinatieri said.
“There’s been some ups and downs and some crazy things that have happened this year. Chuck (Pagano) battling through the cancer thing and B.A. (Bruce Arians) stepping in. It’s been an interesting year but it’s been ever rewarding for us all. I think the book is not done being written yet.”
Tags: Adam Vinatieri, bruce arians, chuck pagano
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