Colts QB Stephen Morris patiently waiting for his shot
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Stephen Morris knew where the discussion was headed, and offered his best Nuke LaLoosh impersonation.
It’s a privilege to be out here.
You’ve got to check your ego at the door.
You’ve got to be a good teammate.
I can only control the controllables.
It’s my job to be ready for when my number’s called.
Nuke LaLoosh, the neurotic character in “Major League,’’ would have been proud.
“You hate me, right?’’ Morris said Wednesday.
Nope. Just trying to make sense of how the Indianapolis Colts are dealing with their quarterbacks not named Andrew Luck as the preseason continues to unfold.
At first glance, it appears Morris has fallen out of favor and now lags behind Scott Tolzien, the starter until Luck returns, and rookie Phillip Walker.
That would be an erroneous assumption.
The Colts basically know what they have with Morris. He’s in his second full season with the team. The coaching staff understands his strengths, weaknesses and upside.
Walker is a virtual unknown. He was signed as an undrafted rookie in May after throwing for 10,273 yards and 72 touchdowns in four years at Temple.
That’s why it was Walker who shouldered the bulk of the work in Sunday’s preseason opener against Detroit.
After Tolzien’s cameo – three series, 11 plays – Walker took over and played into the fourth quarter. He directed eight possessions and handled 45 snaps. Morris’ day consisted of 25 plays at a time when so many of those around him were players who in all likelihood won’t be on the roster for the Sept. 10 opener.
Morris smiled when pressed about the QB pecking order against the Lions.
“Hopefully I’ll get my chance against Dallas,’’ he said.
More likely, we’ll see a similar approach, and that has very little to do with Morris. Forget the depth chart. He hasn’t been supplanted by Walker.
The preseason to this point has been about the Colts taking a long, hard look at Walker. He lacks size – 5-11, 216 pounds – but has flashed potential with a strong arm and mobility.
“He’s done a nice job,’’ Chuck Pagano said. “He’s performed well so we’re taking a really good look at him.’’
Good for Walker, bad for Morris.
To adequately prepare Walker for the Lions and Dallas, the Temple product is taking the vast majority of practice reps after Tolzien.
Morris? His daily routine has consisted of staying after practice and throwing. And throwing some more. Wednesday, Morris and rookie wideout Brian Riley shared a 20-minute post-practice pitch-and-catch session.
“It’s still work,’’ Morris said. “One, it’s a privilege to be out here. Two, anytime you get an opportunity . . . obviously you want to play, you want to get reps in practice, you want to get better.
“But the role of the backup when Andrew’s back and during the season is you have to get mental reps. You have to get ready and stay ready.’’
Morris was ready when opportunity presented itself last preseason. He was efficient and productive. His stat line – 39-of-61 (63.9 percent), 531 yards, four touchdowns, one interception – was among the NFL’s best.
Again, Morris smiled.
“It’s kind of a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league as everyone understands and knows,’’ he said. “Last year was last year. This year is this year.
“I’m trying to improve on the things I did wrong in the game and things I can do better.’’
But how can you do that when you see limited practice time and your game reps against the Lions came during true mop-up time? More for Phillip Walker means less for Stephen Morris, and the preseason is when players jockey for roster spots.
“I can’t control that, man,’’ he said. “That’s not my job. My job is when my number’s called – ‘Steve, in’ – to be like, ‘OK, let’s go. What’s the situation? Let’s make it happen.’
“That’s all I can control . . . how I study and how I prepare for practice and games. Whatever happens, happens. To the best of my ability, that’s what I’ve done.’’
The notion of your ego taking a beating while the coaching staff looks at another QB? Get over it, insisted Morris.
“You check your ego at the door, man,’’ he said. “That’s a cliché, but it’s true. I learned that my rookie year. I learned that last year. It’s definitely easy to say, tough to do, but it’s something that has to be done.
“If you come in here moping and pouting and angry at the world, you’re getting nothing done. That’s the attitude you have to take. It’s a tough league, man, physically and especially mentally. It takes a special person to play in this league at any position. Once you master that, it kind of gets a little easier for you.’’