INDIANAPOLIS—At the top of the game times, opponents, and a big picture of Jim Caldwell is a simple statement that the Colts have tried to make their own.
"Make It Personal" says the posters that were passed out to fans before the start of the 2009 season, implying that they along with their fans making victory a priority to each in their own way.
Mike Hart has done the same, by doing the opposite.
"You just can't take it personal," said the running back when asked how he survived a year-and-a-half of injuries, cuts, and time on the practice squad. You understand that players get hurt at certain positions, you have to get rid of certain positions when you have extra players, you bring in other players.
"You just stay positive, just keep working at it, hopefully it will work out someway, somehow."
That, and hit the books.
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"The most impressive thing about him is he has a real good grasp of what we do," said Colts head coach Jim Caldwell. "He's a smart guy. He catches on quickly."
Its not by accident either.
"You can't miss a play," said Hart when asked how he learned the tendencies of the offense-and he's had plenty of time to watch.
After making the squad the the surprise of some at the end of training camp in 2008, Hart suffered a setback when he tore his ACL in his first regular season action against Baltimore. It came after he picked up a critical third-and-two that set up a Colts touchdown and triggered a 34-3 romp.
After getting through training camp, Hart was waived by the team on September 5th and then signed to the practice squad a day later. He joined the active roster again on October 3rd but was again waived by the team on November 24th then signed to the practice squad the next day.
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"You just stay positive," said Hart on what kept him going as his status was juggled this season. "Just keep working at it, hopefully it will work out someway, somehow."
In the meantime, he became a student of the game, watching current tailbacks Joseph Addai and 2008 backup Dominic Rhodes while he was nursing an injured knee. Hart did the same thing this season with Addai, scouting from the practice field and the sidelines as he tried to play the mental game.
"When they do things just watch what they do, how they do it, and then when you watch film the next day, and they talk about the plays, just pay attention," said Hart. "I think a lot of guys when there not in there, you tend to lose focus and not really watch, and not pay attention.
"But you know I try to stay focused so when I'm ready, when I'm called upon, I can be ready."
Late in the season, when Donald Brown dealt with injuries and the Colts hoped to take some strain off Addai, Hart was inserted into the lineup. He carried 26 times for 70 yards and a touchdown in short yardage situations in the final five games of the season.
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"He's been courageous. He's had a lot of injuries. Nobody can put themselves in his shoes and what he's felt injury wise, but he has fought hard," said quarterback Peyton Manning of Hart. "We've appreciated his efforts, and I think he'll play a good part here down the homestretch."
Against Denver, he had a critical third down rush for a first down late in the fourth quarter that led to the Colts' clinching score while scoring the only touchdown of the game in the season finale against Buffalo.
"I've been playing ok, not great, definetely made some mistakes here and there," said Hart of his performance. "But I think there is a lot of improvement I can get better, but like I said that's why I have to keep watching, trying to get better everyday."