INDIANAPOLIS — Scott Tolzien and Stephen Morris see every play as an opportunity.
So when they trot out Thursday night at Cincinnati, the Indianapolis Colts’ backup quarterbacks know this game matters.
“You’re always trying to be sharp,” Tolzien said. “The way I look at it, it’s another opportunity to go play in a football game.”
On this team, those chances usually have been rare.
From 1998 through 2010, Peyton Manning started every meaningful game the Colts played. Then after drafting Andrew Luck with the top overall pick in 2012, Indy plugged the rookie into the starting lineup and he started every meaningful game for the next three-plus seasons.
Fortunately for the Colts, when Luck went down last season, they had a capable backup in 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck.
But when Hasselbeck announced his retirement during the offseason, it didn’t take the Colts long to sign Tolzien. He spent the previous three seasons backing up Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, and they still had Morris, a developmental quarterback who finished last season on the Colts’ roster.
Now, with the preseason winding down, the Colts will likely follow their traditional tack by giving most of their starters an extra night off to get healthy for the regular-season opener, Sept. 11 against Detroit.
With so many injuries already, who can blame them?
Besides, Tolzien and Morris cherish getting some extra work.
“It’s being consistent, making plays, getting the ball out quicker, being decisive with my feet,” Morris said, rattling off this week’s goals. “You have to make sure you’re in the books and preaching the right things.”
This time, though, the two quarterbacks could be vying for one open spot.
Tolzien is listed at No. 2 on Indy’s depth chart with Morris on the No. 3 line.
While coach Chuck Pagano has repeatedly brushed aside any discussion of a challenge to Tolzien, Morris has shown promise in his limited playing time and in a normal season might get one of the precious 53 roster spots.
It’s not so clear now.
With the possibility of 10 or more injured players taking spots on the 53-man active roster, Pagano acknowledged Monday that trimming the roster from 75 to 53 might be tricky. Things could get even more complicated when they fill out the 10-player practice squad because the Colts may need all 10 active for Week 1.
Morris said Tuesday he has no idea if the Colts plan to keep two or three quarterbacks, though they have usually had only two during the Manning and Luck eras.
Either way, Morris is eager to give it his best shot.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to put something good on film. Any time you’re on the field, you want to put good film on.”
Tolzien also can use the work.
A year ago, he threw only one pass — a 4-yard completion at Arizona in Week 16. The only other regular-season action for the six-year veteran came in 2013, when Rodgers was injured. He played in three games that season, started two and finished 55 of 90 for 717 yards with one touchdown and five interceptions.
He’ll probably make his second preseason start Thursday and he wants to make the most of it.
“It is crunch time, but we’re going to play to win,” he said. “You play your best when you’re prepared and you’re comfortable.”
Notes: Indianapolis got under the 75-player limit Tuesday by waiving linebacker Anthony Sarao and cornerback Darius White and putting safety Dezmen Southward on injured reserve. … Indy then re-signed safety Alden Darby, who was released Sunday. … Left tackle Anthony Castonzo did not practice Tuesday because of a strained triceps. Pagano said he expected Castonzo to return to practice Wednesday. Tight end Dwayne Allen also sat out for the second straight day with a sore hip. … Don’t expect cornerback Antonio Cromartie to play against the Bengals. “He’s in shape,” Pagano said. “But there’s a difference between L.A. Fitness shape and football shape, right?