TERRE HAUTE — Dominic Rhodes is preparing himself for life after the National Football League.
“Over the last couple years, I’ve been really concentrating in the off-season on getting a real-estate company going and buying up houses,” he mentioned after training-camp practice ended Tuesday morning at Rose-Hulman.
“I have a passion for that. I love houses. I love to look at them. I love to see what I can do to the inside of them, making an old house become a beautiful house.”
At 29, Rhodes knows his career as a running back will last only a few more years.
But he’s not ready to dive into real estate full time yet.
Having re-signed with the Colts as a free agent in May after spending 2007 with the Oakland Raiders, Rhodes is best remembered for his 113-yard, one-touchdown performance in Super Bowl XLI when Indianapolis defeated the Chicago Bears 29-17.
Heading into Sunday’s preseason opener against the Washington Redskins, the 5-foot-9, 203-pound Rhodes is listed as No. 2 on the depth chart behind 2007 Pro Bowler Joseph Addai.
Trying to move up to No. 2 are Kenton Keith (last season’s No. 2), rookies Mike Hart and Chad Simpson and second-year player Clifton Dawson.
“It always matters to me,” Rhodes said of his position on the depth chart. “You’re always fighting to be the No. 1 guy or the guy next to the No. 1 guy, because you want to get those carries. You want to get those reps. You want to be on the field and make plays for the team.
“But in terms of helping this team out, all I want to do is every time they give me a shot, I just want to perform. I want to make plays. I just want to make sure that I make my presence felt every time I’m out there. And I think that’s what they brought me back for.”
Spectators attending Colts camp probably noticed Rhodes no longer wears uniform No. 33. That belongs to second-year safety Melvin Bullitt, so Rhodes is now No. 38.
“I tried during mini-camp [to get No. 33 from Bullitt],” Rhodes admitted. “We started talking about money and stuff like that. Then I got to the point where, you know, I never paid for that number. I just always got it and wore it. It’s a blessing I’ve had all these years that’s been good to me.”
Rhodes said he had worn No. 33 since he was 7, but he can live without it.
“It’s always in my heart,” he noted. “I’m always going to be ‘33’ at heart. If I’m able to get it later on, then I will. But if not, then I’ll just make 38 special.”
All appearances indicate Rhodes wants to make every moment special at camp this year. He’s one of the most approachable players for autograph-seeking fans after practice and he’s usually wearing a smile on his face.
“I definitely take this as a privilege, whether it’s being here with the Colts or just being in the NFL,” he explained. “We’re all blessed to be here with a great opportunity to take care of our families and just have fun. I play this game like I’m a kid still, because we are playing a kids game.
“I always take the opportunity to go sign [autographs] for the fans, because they’re the ones that provide us with all the excitement. I have fun with this game. Whether it’s a long, hard practice or not, I’ll still be laughing and smiling about it.”
Asked if he appreciates being in the NFL more than he did in his early 20s, Rhodes left no doubt about the answer.
“Most definitely,” he emphasized. “When I was younger, everything just came a little bit easier in terms of going out every day and running and doing all the things out there on the field. It wasn’t as hard on my body. Now that I’m getting up there, in my eighth season, I’m learning how to take care of myself better.
“I’m appreciating this game a little bit more, because I know that in a couple years it’s going to be time to start winding down and thinking about doing other things.”
Rhodes said he feels no bitterness about his unsuccessful season with the Raiders. In 10 games (two as a starter), he rushed for 302 yards and one TD on 75 carries as Oakland finished 4-12. Making matters worse, he sat out the first four games because of an NFL-imposed suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
“It was hectic,” he reflected. “It was here and there. It was just a whole bunch of stuff. I kinda messed myself up by missing those four games because I would have been the starter and probably had a great year. It was a life experience, just another gray hair to add to the head.
“But everything happens for a reason. I’m back here with the Colts now and with a great organization.”
Rhodes acknowledged that he often monitored and kept in touch with former Colts teammates while he was with the Raiders.
“I tried to watch Joe [Addai] as much as possible and see what he was doing … and Reggie [Wayne] and Peyton [Manning] and Marv [Harrison]. All the guys that I knew, I tried to watch them and make sure they were all right and weren’t getting hurt. And every time somebody did get hurt, I texted them and asked them how they were doing, just to make sure they knew I was watching out for them.”
Addai and Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy like having the personable Rhodes as part of the team again.
“It seems like he never left,” Addai said Monday. “I’m just going into my third year and it’s going fast. Dom was only away for a couple months, so it seems like he never left really. With him being around, it makes the lockerroom a whole lot better. It feels good playing with somebody who has been in the league a while.”
“It’s been fun,” Dungy said. “He’s one of the guys that you enjoy being around. I think our players enjoy him and he’s looking forward to this year. It’s been good to have him.”
Running backs coach Gene Huey said Rhodes has been working hard in camp to earn his spot on the team.
“He needs to correct a few things, be a little more focused on execution,” Huey added. “But Dominic will be fine. That’s what we’re out here for. We’re here to get better during this camp. He, along with the rookies, are trying to get better.”
Huey also stressed that the depth chart behind Addai is not settled for anyone yet, including Rhodes.
“I don’t care how good he’s been or what he’s done in the past,” Huey said. “It’s a new year, a new season, new people.
“We’ve got some rookies who are working well. Mike Hart from Michigan is doing a good job. Cliff Dawson, who’s been here [one year], is doing a good job too. Those youngsters like Chad Simpson and Mike Hart are doing well on special teams. They’re trying hard to make the team.”
Not fazed by the presence of younger players at running back, Rhodes embraces the “what can you do for us now?” philosophy.
“That just keeps everybody hungry,” he said. “You know what I’m saying? It makes sure that every guy out there on the field is on his A-game and he’s concentrating. He’s making sure that the next guy [on the depth chart] isn’t doing anything better than him and that’s what competition is about.
“I mean, if you’re competitive, that brings out the best in you. If you’re not, you’ll fall back to the back of the pack.”
TERRE HAUTE — Dominic Rhodes is preparing himself for life after the National Football League.
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