Friday, December 26, 2008
TIME TO SHINE
By John Oehser - Colts.com
Sorgi Likely to Play Extensively Against Tennessee Sunday
And just because that time will be at the stage of the season that Jim Sorgi has come to expect – in the regular-season finale, with the Colts having clinched their playoff seeding – doesn’t mean he doesn’t take his time seriously. Far from it.
Sorgi, a fifth-year veteran from the University of Wisconsin, likely will play extensively when Colts quarterback Peyton Manning leaves the game Sunday. And unlike 15 previous games this season, Manning almost certainly will leave the game sometime.
That makes the game important for Sorgi. Very important.
“I’m not sure how many (plays) I’m going to get, but probably at least a half,” Sorgi said this week as the Colts (11-4) prepared to play the AFC South champion Tennessee Titans (13-2) in the regular-season finale at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Sunday at 1 p.m.
“I get to see these guys (the Titans) again, just like I saw them last year.”
Sorgi, with Manning out because of off-season knee surgery, played and practiced more during preseason and training camp than in any of his previous four seasons. He worked daily with the first-team offense, and started the first three preseason games.
But during the regular season, he has played less than usual.
With most of the Colts’ games decided in the fourth quarter – and many in the final minutes – Sorgi has yet to play this season. It’s the first time in his career he has not played in the season’s first 15 games.
“It’s hard,” Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said of Sorgi’s situation. “The backup quarterback position is the toughest spot because you have to prepare every week as if you’re going to be in there. You have to go through it mentally and do the whole process and then you don’t get to play and you do get a little rusty. At most other positions at least you’re going to get into the game on special teams or in some way hone your craft up a little bit, but that backup quarterback can go a long time without playing. When you are in there it’s usually a critical time.
“That’s why it’s going to be important for us, and we’ve always taken that opportunity to get Jim (Sorgi) some meaningful time when we can.”
Sorgi, since being selected in the sixth-round of the 2004 NFL Draft, never has made an NFL start because Manning – in addition to being selected to the Pro Bowl each of the last seven seasons – also is one of the most durable quarterbacks in NFL history.
He never has missed a start in 11 NFL seasons, and during Sorgi’s five seasons, Manning never has missed a snap because of injury. Manning also typically takes most snaps with the first-team offense during practice, and Sorgi said that has been the case again this season.
“What’s tough about this year I haven’t taken one of our offensive plays since the third preseason game,” Sorgi said. “You’re going into Week 17, so it’s about 20 weeks since I actually sat down and actually ran one of our plays. I expect to be a little rusty. I expect to go out there and be efficient, take what they give me, make completions and protect the ball.
“Sooner or later, good things will happen. That’s kind of the approach I take with this game.”
And Sorgi said even with the game having no playoff implications, Manning has taken most of the snaps in practice this week.
“This week is kind of an awkward week, because you still want to keep practice going and practice well,” Sorgi said. “The starters are still going to get all the practice time. You still have to learn by watching, mental reps and film, but you have that feeling that you know you’re going to play, so you’re still preparing as if. It’s exciting. It will be an exciting week.”
Sorgi said Sunday’s game is special beyond previous opportunities. His three-year-old son, Jim, will attend a Colts game for the first time.
“He’ll get to see his dad play football,” Sorgi said.
His son will see that at the same time most others have seen his father. Sorgi’s playing regular-season time often has come at the end of games with the outcome decided, and as often, at the end of the regular season after Indianapolis has clinched its postseason positioning.
He played extensively in one such game in 2004, then in two games the following season. His last such action was in a 16-10 season-ending loss to Tennessee last season, a game in which he completed 11 of 24 passes for 68 yards and a touchdown.
“It’s a little easier, because I’ve played against them before,” Sorgi said.
Sorgi said the Titans’ approach that game was memorable – to him, at least. Although the Colts had clinched their playoff positioning, the Titans needed the victory to make the playoffs. Manning played the first quarter and the first series of the second quarter. During that time, Sorgi said the Tennessee defense played fairly straightforward.
Sorgi entered the game midway through the second quarter.
“The bullets started flying,” Sorgi said, smiling. “They were bringing everybody.”
For his career, Sorgi has completed 77 of 126 passes for 751 yards and six touchdowns with an interception, but he said this week the Titans game Sunday isn’t just important for him personally.
The Colts with a victory can extend their winning streak to nine games, which would tie the team’s second-longest streak in Dungy’s six seasons. They also can become the first team in NFL history to win 12 or more games in six consecutive seasons.
The Titans also can become the first team to sweep the Colts in the regular season since Tennessee did it in 2002.
“They beat us down there earlier in the season, and we’d like to beat them going into the playoffs,” Sorgi said. “There’s a lot going on.”