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Opener big for rookies, not so much for veterans


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Andrew Luck will play some, but not much. Young guys will play a lot.

Reggie Wayne won’t play at all.

Apart from that, coach Chuck Pagano can’t — or won’t — predict the flow of tonight’s preseason-opener as it pertains to playing time for the Indianapolis Colts’ regulars.

Much could depend on the first offensive series — a series that is likely to be the only one for Luck, and possibly for assorted other central figures, as well.

“We’re going to play it by ear,” Pagano said. “You never know what’s going to happen that first series when you throw them out there. But you’d love to see, in a perfect world, them go out there and have a six-, seven-, eight-play drive, score a touchdown, kick a PAT, and make a decision there, get them out of the game.

“You’d love to see a start like that.”

Whether the visiting Colts do or don’t have a start like that against the New York Jets, the exhibition will be an extended audition for a wealth of players simply trying to make the team. For others whose situations are less tenuous, it will be the first taste of what’s to come as the regular-season approaches.

Rookie wide receiver Donte Moncrief, who is expected to bolster special teams and lend depth to the receiving unit, can’t wait.

“I know it’s going to be very surprising,” said Moncrief, a third-round draft choice who has impressed in training camp. “(Playing in the NFL) is something I always wanted, so my heart is going to be pounding a little bit, to get that first action.”

For third-year running back Trent Richardson, tonight also is meaningful in that it is his first opportunity to show the benefits of his first training camp with the Colts.

Acquired in a blockbuster trade with Cleveland last season in Week 3, Richardson — who likely won’t play much tonight — never gained traction in the offense but finally declares himself comfortable in the Colts’ system.

“I feel very explosive. I tell you, it’s much easier to make your cuts, do the right stuff when you know what’s really going on,” Richardson said. “Now I’ve got a chance to know what everybody’s doing instead of just knowing where my eyes are. It’s very big having this time with my teammates, the timing with my quarterback. Knowing the plays, knowing exact calls, the language that my offensive line is speaking, knowing what the linebackers are doing and what the safeties are showing me.

“It’s much different when you can actually be there at this time and build that respect and build all that responsibility with your teammates, your peers.”

For Luck, he has nothing to prove and little to learn in what will amount to a cameo appearance. But the third-year quarterback doesn’t take a dim view of the preseason.

He enjoys it.

“Absolutely, definitely looking forward to it,” Luck said. “You can feel a good energy, especially from the younger guys, that it will be their first time playing in an NFL game.

“It’s special.”

Richardson not only echoes the sentiment, he shares it with everyone who is vying for a job. For some, tonight will be their first and last chance.

“I’m telling them to have fun, stay loose and live in the moment,” Richardson said. “Don’t see too much. Sometimes when you’re a young player, we’ve all been there, you’re eyes get big as quarters, silver dollars, and you get nervous in the games.

“Be yourself, do what got you here and really hone in on the small things and just keep getting better.”

Pagano put it another way.

“This is your first opportunity to put your brand, your product on tape. The biggest thing is effort,” Pagano said. “Flying around, playing fast, playing tough, playing smart. Have fun, relax and go play. Know exactly what you’re supposed to do. We’ll put them in situations as best we can so they can have success early on, so they’re not thinking.

“Play hard, play fast, execute, take care of the little things. But really, effort. You’re looking for great effort. It shouldn’t be something that when we come back on Friday and we grade this tape that we’ve got to talk to guys about effort.”

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