“I was lying in bed last night and I thought about (the opportunity),” Ballard said. “I want to get excited but I don't want to get too excited to where it's overwhelming. It's just another week with more playing time.”
Ballard knew about his opportunity on Monday, but the rest of the NFL found out Wednesday when Colts interim coach Bruce Arians casually dropped the news of Brown's surgery.
Brown suffered a torn cartilage on the final offensive play of the Colts' 30-27 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, Arians said. Brown celebrated the play – a two-point conversion run up the middle – with a “Discount Doublecheck” demonstration, but was not injured on the celebration, Arians said.
At any rate, the injury opens up an opportunity for the rookie Ballard, along with veteran Mewelde Moore and second-year running back Delone Carter.
Brown rushed 17 times for 84 yards against the Packers, the type of solid production the Colts would like to continue this week.
“You always have to prepare like a starter and that's what I've been doing,” Ballard said. “I don't think any test is too big for me. I'll try not to be Superman or play outside myself. Just do my job.”
Ballard hasn't had much of a chance to make an impact yet. In four games, he has carried 21 times for 42 yards (2.0 per carry) with a long run of nine yards.
He's a different type of back than Brown. While Brown has been able to break some nice runs by using his speed on the edge, Ballard is more of a between-the-tackles runner. He's rock solid at 5-foot-10, 217 pounds.
“Vick's an explosive runner,” Colts tight end Dwayne Allen said. “I believe he can get us yards after contact, and he's hungry. He's been waiting for this opportunity, and hopefully he makes the best of it.”
Ballard said the biggest adjustment he's had to make since joining the Colts out of Mississippi State is in pass protection. That's a pretty big key, considering Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck is averaging 44 pass attempts per game.
“Some teams give more crazy looks than others,” Ballard said. “It's all about knowing who is who. The Mike (middle) linebacker might be a DB on one play, things like that.
“In college, they get kind of in-depth (with protections), but at the pro level, it's more complex,” Ballard said. “Since OTAs (optional training activities) until now, I think I've got a pretty good grasp of it.”
Notes The Colts did not release any new information on outside linebacker Robert Mathis' knee injury, but the Indianapolis Star reports he'll be out two to three weeks with a sprain. ...Dwight Freeney came through his first game back in fine health, Arians said. He plans to limit Freeney's repetitions in practice this week to keep him fresh. …Offensive lineman Joe Reitz should be at practice this week, Arians said, but doubtful to play. …Colts defensive end Cory Redding said Jerraud Powers' interception early in the third quarter was a big momentum changer against Green Bay. “That kind of lit a spark,” Redding said. “Defense is all about energy. If you don't have it, it's very hard to make plays. When everybody is upbeat and everybody has a little energy and the crowd is loud, everybody fees off each other in a contagious way.”