Instead of responding to fans' complaints, speculation about being replaced by Brett Favre or the eventual signing of Kerry Collins, Painter turned his attention this week to the one thing under his control: Leading the Colts' offense Friday night against the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.
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"I think more than anything it's just to kind of show improvement," Painter said when asked about this week's goals. "I think to be able to transfer camp over to the game would be big, so yeah, I don't think we need to add any more pressure on it."
Sounds great, but Painter is in a fight for his job.
The problem? He's still struggling.
In two preseason games, Painter is just 8-of-16 passing for 95 yards with one interception and no touchdowns. He managed only one first down and couldn't get Indy past its own 29-yard line in the first half last week, and he still hasn't produced a touchdown drive.
On Friday, he'll have to contend with anxious fans and one of the league's most aggressive defenses -- all on national television.
Those concerns grew exponentially when owner Jim Irsay wrote Saturday on Twitter that the Colts must be prepared to start the season without Manning, then followed that post with another asking fans who the team should sign as a veteran free agent.
On Sunday, when Irsay wrote he was in Hattiesburg, Miss., speculation began that Favre could join Indy in time for Friday's game against his former team. Instead, the Colts signed Collins, a move that fans lauded but some of Painter's teammates questioned.
"I guarantee you that was a punch in the back of the head to Painter, but it's like a punch in the back of the head to me, too," five-time Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne said Wednesday. "I guess that's because I'm biased, I don't know. I'm a Curtis Painter fan. I talk to Curtis every day, every day. I tell him, 'Curtis, I got your back' every day, and if he throws it in a mile's radius, I tell him, 'I'll make it shake for you.' "
Wayne missed last week's game as he celebrated the birth of his baby boy and said after watching the tape that he felt partially responsible for Painter's troubles. This week, Wayne hopes to make amends by giving Painter a second chance.
The cards appear to be stacked against Painter, too.
The Colts have lost eight consecutive preseason games, dating to a 16-9 victory at Atlanta on Aug. 16, 2009.
Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers and the rest of Green Bay's offensive starters are expected to play the entire first half and might tinker again with a no-huddle offense that has produced both of the first team's preseason touchdown drives. Rookie receiver Randall Cobb, a second-round draft pick, is expected to miss the game with bruised knees. Pro Bowl receiver Greg Jennings also could sit out with a bruised knee.
It's a simple plan.
Caldwell will take a similar approach with the Colts. He plans to use the starters into the third quarter.
But the bigger question is what the Colts, and particularly Painter, do during that time. With Collins trying to learn Indy's playbook, Manning coaching from the sideline and Wayne vowing to do whatever he can, this could be Painter's last best chance to prove he can play in the NFL.
Even if the third-year pro doesn't quite look at it that way.
"It's kind of like it has been," Painter said. "It's been a steady competition and you're never completely satisfied with where you're at, so it doesn't change much in my mind. You've just got to go out and be prepared for whatever you need to do."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press