INDIANAPOLIS – A year later, Chandler Harnish stands in nearly the same spot. He's a No. 3 quarterback trying to land a roster spot with the Indianapolis Colts.
He's older. He's wiser. He's more confident. But that doesn't mean there will be any room left for him when the Colts trim their roster to 53 players Friday.
The Colts play their final preseason game at 7 p.m. Thursday in Cincinnati. Starting quarterback Andrew Luck might play a series. Matt Hasselbeck might play a series. Harnish, the former Norwell High School standout, will play extensively.
Come Friday, the Colts must decide who to keep and who to cut. That's blunt. And that's business.
“It's never an easy situation, but at the end of the day you can't worry about things you can't control,” Harnish said. “You go out and play hard and put yourself in position to win the game. You do everything you have to do as far as preparing to go and execute the game plan, and let the chips fall where they may.
“I understand it's an unbelievable privilege to play this game,” he said. “Whatever happens, I know there's a plan and I'm excited to attack it, whatever that adventure might be.”
If the Colts release Harnish with the intention of signing him to the practice squad, where he spent much of last season, they'll possibly lose him to another team. Buffalo has already had two quarterback injuries. The New York Jets have issues. Several teams are one unlucky break from needing a quarterback.
That rule applies to other players on the Colts' bubble, such as defensive back Delano Howell or tight end Justice Cunningham. The trim from 75 to 53 players is a tough one, especially the last three or four.
Good players will be released.
“When you look at our roster, we created so much competition and we're deeper across the board at all positions, so we're going to have to let some really good football players go,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “And they'll end up on other teams like everybody else's guys, but it's going to be tough.”
Howell says that's why the final preseason game is so important for the players who might need one more performance to sway the coaching staff and front office.
“This is the one we've been looking forward to, for the young guys, for guys that are trying to prove something, trying to claim a spot,” Howell said. “This is the game we've been looking forward to. There's going to be a lot of opportunity, a lot of snaps and everything.”
Harnish played extensively in the first preseason game, but not as much in the following two. It's unlikely his performance at Cincinnati will sway the staff one way or another.
That decision will likely rest on the team's philosophy on whether to keep a third quarterback. The Colts could decide to go with a player who can also contribute on special teams. Except in rare instances – Tim Tebow on the punt team – quarterbacks rarely play special teams.
For Harnish, the idea is to approach this week with the same attitude he has brought since he was drafted by the Colts last year.
“Nothing changes,” Harnish said. “You continue to prepare like every other week. You study all the situations, practice your butt off ,bring it every single day and when the game comes you're ready to play no matter how much playing time you get.”