AFC South: Drew Willy

INDIANAPOLIS -- Last time I was at Lucas Oil Stadium, it was crackling for the AFC Championship Game.

Saturday, for a public minicamp practice, it was a bit different. And by a bit, I mean a lot. About 4,000 people came out, many focused on the half hour of autograph signing before things kicked off.

It’s what you’d expect for a Saturday in June, with players not in pads, not hitting and opening day more than three months away.

Some observations:

  • People watched the punt returners with special interest as there is new potential at the position. (When they ran two punt drills at once, safety Jamie Silva shockingly failed to measure up to Pat McAfee.) Brandon James was out, while Ray Fisher, Brandon King and Devin Moore fielded balls. It’s a training camp battle likely to be sorted out largely by preseason game performance. Hardly a newsflash here, but McAfee’s leg can be simply electric.
  • On a day like this, I try to spot kids who look lost. The young quarterbacks had some bad moments, and I am sure there were some young players out there who were unsure of themselves. But they were not especially easy to pick out. At least part of that, I think, is testament to the Colts’ way. They tend to draft and bring in smart guys and I am sure their rookie orientation and early days are quite thorough. While a lot of young guys are brought along slowly and benefit from patience, my sense is the Colts don’t give kids a lot of time to be lost over the basics of how things work.
  • I don’t believe Peyton Manning likes quiet time during practice, so even when quarterbacks might have some time to kill the Colts signal-callers do some sort of work. We watched while they were stationed at a 15-yard line and Manning, Curtis Painter, Drew Willy and Tim Hiller threw to the back left corner of the end zone. Austin Collie stood there and worked his feet on the boundary as passes arrived. One set of quarterback drops came with an early shoulder fake, and it appeared Manning was coaching the other three on how to make theirs more believable.
  • Rookie tight end Brody Eldridge figures to be more blocker than pass catcher early on, and I intend to write about him soon. But he appeared a comfortable route runner and pass catcher in the little bit we saw.
  • I only saw one snap of Jerry Hughes’ work during one-on-one pass rush drills. (Remember, no pads, no real hitting; it’s about speed, footwork and hand placement at this point.) Ryan Diem swallowed the first-rounder up.
  • No offense to any of the involved parties, but I’m still amazed at this element of springtime NFL: People came to the stadium and whooped and hollered at a Painter completion to Blair White over Jordan Hemby. Will any of them play a meaningful snap this season?
  • How desensitized am I to ridiculous pricing at professional sports venues? A special that got me a hot pretzel and a decent-sized Diet Coke for $5 felt like larceny.
  • The last three Colts on the field? Jim Caldwell signed autographs and Bill Polian threw passes to his young grandson. But Moore, the first-year running back from Wyoming, outlasted them both. And one set of lights went off just as he ran down the tunnel. Hope he didn't hold up a bus.

Agent: Colts cutting Sorgi

March, 5, 2010
Colts fans who loved what they saw of Curtis Painter, take a deep breath…

The agent for Indianapolis reserve quarterback Jim Sorgi, who ended the season on IR, tweeted that Sorgi’s been told by the team he will be released today.

In an email exchange, Matt Brei said: "They have not said why yet, but want to meet with Jim on Monday. He did have a roster bonus due if he was on the roster on day five of the league year. His shoulder is doing well and he has been throwing for weeks now. He was actually healthy prior to the end of the season."

Sorgi was heading into the last year of his contract and his 2009 cap number was $1.35 million. (UPDATE: Phil Richards reports the bonus was $275,000 and Sorgi's 2010 salary was $1.08 million.)

It’s a widely held belief that the Colts would be doomed if Peyton Manning got hurt and missed any extensive time, and I certainly subscribe to that.

Manning’s going to get a new deal that will make him the highest paid player in the history of the league. Investing a lot in his backup doesn’t make a lot of sense.

But doing better than Painter or Drew Willy certainly does.

Playing in 15 games that have been decided or meant nothing, Sorgi has a career 89.9 passer rating. There are a lot of teams with bad backup situations that I’d think would give him a look as a cheap candidate to at least compete for the slot.
The Colts have absolute faith that Peyton Manning will be on the field when they need him to be.


It now appears they are endorsing rookie quarterback Curtis Painter as his backup -- and the guy likely to get the bulk of the work in late-season games they rate as meaningless.

The team put veteran backup Jim Sorgi on injured reserve Wednesday with a shoulder injury. That means Painter is first in line behind Manning and as the scout team quarterback who helps the defense prepare during the week.

The team took a look at J.P. Losman last week but didn’t make a move with him. Perhaps he’s their back burner guy and something could still happen.

The team also cut Shane Boyd from the practice squad, adding quarterback Drew Willy to replace him. Willy, a rookie out of Buffalo, originally signed as a free agent with Baltimore.

Manning and the Colts can clinch homefield advantage through the playoffs Sunday with a win over Denver. If they do, indications are they will not put an emphasis on trying to go 16-0 and will ease up and rest people as they’ve done in the past.

That could mean limited or no work for Manning. Sorgi has played in 16 games in six seasons with the bulk of that action coming in those late-season situations.

The Colts drafted Painter out of Purdue in the sixth round, 201st overall and have been impressed enough with him that they invested a roster spot in the third quarterback despite knowing the odds of needing him on a Sunday were incredibly small.