By Tom James
INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Caldwell doesn’t hide his appreciation for what second-year wide receiver Pierre Garcon has accomplished over the first three games of the 2009 season.
Garcon saw limited playing time as a rookie last year, mostly on special teams, after being a sixth-round draft choice in 2008 from Division III Mount Union College in Ohio.
After catching just four passes for 23 yards a year ago, he has become one of the Colts’ big-play threats this season with seven receptions for 136 yards and a pair of touchdowns (48 yards for the game-winner against Miami and a 53 yards last week at Arizona).
“[Garcon’s development] is a work in progress. It is one of those things, a lot of people have seen, and I think we’ve talked about it from time-to-time, that we thought we had two good, young receivers coming along and making real good strides. That you could see in practice before they had an opportunity to perform in games, and now you’re starting to see a little bit of it. But the fact of the matter is, that’s sort of the tip of the iceberg,” Caldwell said Thursday.
“All the work started way back when. Pierre, this is his second year. For [rookie receiver] Austin Collie, it started way back in the spring with intense sessions in a select group and work with Peyton on some one-on-one things and things of that nature. They are starting to bear some fruit from the hard work they’ve put in, but everyday and every week you have to go out and prove yourself over and over again, and today is no different for those young guys.”
For Garcon, who excelled against smaller schools as a collegiate senior, the question was could he raise his game to a higher level.
“I don’t think there is any question that there is a difference [in levels of competition]. There is a speed factor, but that’s something often times it takes a little awhile to get adjusted to. Pierre seems to have adjusted fairly well,” the Colts coach said.
Garcon, though, is still learning what it means to be a player in the NFL. As quiet as he is off-the-field, he has sometimes allowed his enthusiasm to get the best of him during games. He was penalized for grabbing the face mask of Cardinals cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie after catching a pass Sunday night.
“Certainly, I think that is just part of the maturity and understanding the situation. He’s a tough, hard-nosed competitor, and he’s a quiet guy, but when he gets on the field, he loves to mix it up, and sometimes you have to be able to control that,” Caldwell said. “That’s part of the business. Within this landscape, you have to be under control, you have to keep your poise. We don’t believe in getting a lot of penalties, because they’ll hurt you in the long run in a tight ballgame.
“So, we do have to have discussions with him on those things. We talk and say, ‘Hey, listen, we are not trying to dampen your enthusiasm, your aggressiveness or anything of that nature, it’s just the extracurricular is what we don’t need.’ So, we try to keep it in that vain, but yet, keep him just as fired up, just as hard-nosed and tough as he wants to be, but lets keep it within the rules.”
• Manning named AFC Offensive Player of the Month — Quarterback Peyton Manning has been named as the AFC’s Offensive Player-of-the-Month for September.
Manning helped lead the Colts to a 3-0 September record, including back-to-back prime-time road wins against defending division champions Miami and Arizona.
For the month, Manning completed 66-of-96 passes (68.8 percent) for 983 yards and 7 TDs with two interceptions for a 117.7 passer rating. Manning passed for over 300 yards in each outing, his second career streak of three consecutive 300-yard games.
Through three games, the reigning league MVP ranks second in NFL passing yards, tied for second in passing TDs, second in passer rating, first in yards per attempt and fourth in completion percentage.
It marks Manning’s fourth career Player-of-the-Month honor, previously winning the award for September of 2003, November of 2004 and October of 2006.
• Injury list — Sitting out Thursday’s workout were defensive end Dwight Freeney (quadriceps), wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez (knee), safety Bob Sanders (knee), middle linebacker Gary Brackett (knee), cornerback Kelvin Hayden (hamstring), and running back Chad Simpson (abdomen).
Also, defensive end Keyunta Dawson (foot), placekicker Adam Vinatieri (rest), offensive tackle Tony Ugoh (rest) and cornerback Tim Jennings (rest) did not take part in the practice session.
• NFL, Colts support breast cancer awareness month — The NFL has designated the week of October 4 as their league-wide celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As a result, teams across the country will be incorporating a variety of pink elements into their game day events.
Selected players, coaches and referees will be wearing pink game apparel to raise awareness for the campaign, as well as on-field pink ribbon stencils and special K-balls and pink coins [for the pregame coin flip].
Colts running back Joseph Addai is slated to wear pink trimmed shoes while rookie punter Pat McAfee will have all-pink shoes during Sunday’s game with Seattle.
“There’ll be a few things going on. It is a very, very important cause. My mother-in-law is a breast cancer survivor. It’s a tough disease, and it is certainly pervasive throughout our society. I’m glad that the NFL and our team are doing some more things to bring recognition to that fact and raising money for that effort,” Caldwell said.