News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 14, 2011

Painter's strong play not surprising to teammates

Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — For those who expected Indianapolis Colts quarterback Curtis Painter to fall flat on his face once he took over as the team’s starter, the wait continues.

Painter, the Colts’ much-maligned backup who struggled in brief appearances over the previous two seasons, has played well the last two weeks.

Yes, Indianapolis lost to Tampa Bay and Kansas City in those games. But the former Purdue signal caller played well enough, for the most part, to win both of those matchups.

Painter has completed 28 of 57 passes (49.1 per cent) for 558 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating of 107.2 ranks seventh in the league. Not bad for guy who was the target of barbs and jokes from fans and media alike.

Not many believed in Painter’s abilities except for those players who share the Colts lockerroom with him.

On Thursday, Coach Jim Caldwell officially named Painter as the team’s starter for the remainder of the season.

“Curtis is our starter, plain and simple. That’s the way it is. He’s playing well. He’s doing a nice job. And I think you’ll continue to see him develop,” Caldwell said, removing any doubt of the quarterback’s status with the team. “The biggest thing with him is that you know he has talent, there’s no question about that. He can throw the ball, and he’s certainly very, very capable in terms of operating within the system.

“But experience is a key, just like anything else. He played extremely well, but you have to anticipate that maybe he will have some ups and downs, because every week there’s a different style. The important thing about experience is a guy who’s been around the block a little bit, and has faced a defense similar to what he’s going to see this week in Cincinnati. He’s faced a defense similar to what he saw in Tampa, and so on and so forth. Once he’s been through it, you’ll see him continue to grow and develop. He’s going to have some ups and downs along the way, and that’s just part of maturity and growing. You can see that he’s developed, and he’s always been a calm individual, certainly in times of pressure. I think you’ll continue to see that be a real strength of his that will help him down the road.”

The decision does not come as a surprise. Even when Indianapolis brought in veteran Kerry Collins to start the first three games of the year, Painter’s teammates remained confident. They contended that if given an opportunity, Painter could get the job done.

“A lot of people don’t understand the difficulty of being a backup quarterback in this system behind Peyton [Manning]. It is difficult and there’s a lot that goes into it,” wide receiver Austin Collie said recently.

“I think you take any one of the quarterbacks that came out with Curtis [in the 2008 NFL draft] and put them in this system and this circumstance, they are going to struggle just as much.”

Collie points to Painter’s overall skills and abilities that their teammates saw on a regular basis in practice. While the public only viewed snippets of those skills, and plenty of mistakes in cleanup situations, the Colts saw a lot more.

“Curtis is a tremendous athlete. He’s a tremendous quarterback and I really think that’s starting to show. You can’t judge a quarterback in this system in this organization by the first two or three years. I’m still learning and everybody’s still learning,” Collie said, adding that Painter’s confidence level continues to rise.

“You can just totally tell when he steps up to the line. I remember when he came in during the Pittsburgh game [after Collins suffered a concussion]. His confidence coming to the line, making the calls, checking the plays and I think that confidence is just building game in and game out as he’s getting more [repetitions]. I think that’s the one thing that Curtis has needed is just reps. Obviously, you’re not going to get many when you’re behind the greatest of all-time [quarterback]. Reps are Curtis’ friend right now, and he’s gotten plenty of them so far. He’s just going to keep on getting better.”

• Addai, Powers not expected to play — Running back Joseph Addai and cornerback Jerraud Powers are not expected to be in uniform when the Colts play Sunday at Cincinnati.

Both are nursing strained hamstrings. Addai was hurt early in the second quarter of last week’s home loss to Kansas City. Powers left late in the fourth quarter.

“No tear. It was just a little strain. That’s the good part about it, it’s not a bad thing that would keep me out for a long time,” Addai said Thursday. “But with hamstrings, I don’t really know how long that will take before I get back on the field.

“I had [a similar injury] three years ago, and it was something that kind of lingered. I was trying to come back and some games I was trying to play with it, and I didn’t actually know that I was delaying myself. This time I’m trying to be smart about it, and make sure that I’m 100 percent before I actually come back.”