The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Sports

April 23, 2012

Colts' Brown ready for new challenge

INDIANAPOLIS — There’s a growing buzz around the Indianapolis Colts that second-year running back Delone Carter might be ready for a breakout year.

Carter was a power runner at Syracuse, and the thinking follows that he’ll be a good fit under new head coach Chuck Pagano.

Pagano spent last season as the defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens, and he’s made no secret of his intent to increase the emphasis on the Colts’ running game. To that end, he hired offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who spent the past eight years with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But Carter isn’t the only player in Indianapolis excited about the new regime.

Donald Brown, considered a bust after his first three seasons as a first-round pick out of Connecticut, is the Colts’ leading returning rusher.

He said he feels like a rookie again and is looking forward to proving himself to a new coaching staff.

“You always have to prove yourself in this league,” Brown said last week at the team’s practice facility. “No matter who’s the coach, who’s the GM, every year you need to prove yourself. There’s always new guys on the team, and everybody’s competing for a job. So you always have to prove yourself.”

Brown quietly is coming off his best professional season.

He made just two starts but still led the team in carries (134), yards (645) and rushing touchdowns (5). Brown also averaged a robust 4.8 yards per carry and scored on an 80-yard run to clinch the Colts’ first win of the season against Tennessee.

But he’s still fighting an uphill battle in the eyes of many fans.

Brown has improved his carries, yardage and touchdown totals in each of his three seasons. But he’s made just 11 career starts, and his production hasn’t come close to matching his lofty draft status.

Brown isn’t focused on any of those things.

With Joseph Addai among a host of veterans not returning for the 2012 season, he figures at least to challenge Carter for the starter’s role.

He said he trained in the offseason as though he will be the starter, and he’s ready to carry a heavy workload.

“I always put a lot of weight on my shoulders no matter who’s here,” Brown said. “You always train and work like you’re the starter because you never know what’s going to happen. You have to be ready for any situation and just be ready to go.”

Brown’s role, like that of nearly every other player’s on the team, will begin to be defined today with the start of voluntary mini-camp.

The Colts ranked 26th in the NFL in rushing last year, and that represented their best showing in the past four seasons. Arians, meanwhile, oversaw a Steelers offense that boasted the league’s 14th-best running game.

There will be additional emphasis on the running backs this season with a rookie quarterback — most likely Stanford’s Andrew Luck — set to take over the offense.

Arians was the quarterbacks coach in Pittsburgh in 2004 when the Steelers went 15-1 with rookie Ben Roethlisberger under center. He threw 295 times for a respectable 2,621 yards with 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. But Pittsburgh supported him with the NFL’s second-ranked running game.

Indianapolis isn’t likely to reach those heights, but Brown said a solid running game is important to any offense.

“I think it will help any quarterback regardless,” he said. “When you have a good effective running game, it always helps. When you put eight guys in the box (on the defense), it helps the passing game.”

But all of that can wait.

For now, Brown is interested only in meeting his new teammates and learning a new playbook. He said the plays are all familiar, but the terminology has changed.

As for his role on the team, Brown’s philosophy is simple.

“I’m just looking forward to helping this offense any way I can,” he said. “Whoever’s out there’s out there, and the coaches are going to put the best guys out there to help put this team in the best possible way to win.”

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