Painter, after a promising preseason, struggled in relief appearances against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. After replacing starter Peyton Manning midway through the Colts' final regular season home game with the Jets, he was greeted with catcalls by many of the team's usually faithful fans.
His performance didn't help matters any. A Painter fumble led directly to a New York touchdown and helped contribute to a 25-19 loss (the Colts' first loss of the season). He wound up completing four-of-11 passes for 44 yards and an interception.
A week later, in the final regular season game of the year, the former Vincennes Lincoln quarterback connected on just four-of-17 passes for 39 yards and had another interception. Buffalo wound up winning 30-7 in a game that was played in snowstorm like conditions.
Heading into the offseason, plenty of people wondered whether Painter could ever be a productive quarterback in the NFL. Some of those questions may have been answered when the Colts opted not to re-sign veteran Jim Sorgi, who wound up moving on to the New York Giants where he will now compete to be Eli Manning's top backup.
Despite his late-season problems, Indianapolis coaches and player personnel officials still had faith in Painter. And now that the Colts' voluntary organized team activity practices and mandatory minicamp workouts have been completed, he appears to be the first in line -- ahead of second-year quarterback Drew Willy, rookie Tim Hiller and recently acquired Tom Brandstater -- to become Manning's primary understudy this fall.
Indianapolis head coach Jim Caldwell is confident Painter's confidence with continue to improve heading into training camp.
"Anytime that they get into their second year, where they've had a chance to really immerse themselves within the concepts of our (offensive) system, you can see some improvement. I can see he's a little bit more comfortable in execution, in terms of his play calls and checks (at the line of scrimmage) and things of that nature," Caldwell said Friday after the final OTA practice of the summer.
"He has a little bit better grasp of his read progressions and he's becoming a bit more accurate. All those things, I think he's seeing improvement year-by-year. But, as you recall, it's not a real easy offense to grasp and to manage. But I think he's improving day after day."
Any worry about Painter's psyche after being on the receiving end of the brickbats being thrown his way late last season?
"No. He's very a resilient guy. And the other thing is he knew the (booing) wasn't necessarily being aimed at him. It was more aimed at me than him. So that was something that I made certain that he understood," the Colts coach said. "I don't think it will have any effect on him in that regard."
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