INDIANAPOLIS -- Colts veteran safety Mike Adams had to do a double take to make sure he heard it correctly and that rookie T.J. Green actually was talking to him.
Adams, whose NFL resume has 13 seasons on it and features a Super Bowl and two Pro Bowl appearances, had to be reminded by the rookie where he should be on the field during a practice.
“Who are you talking to, rookie?,” Adams recalled saying to Green. “Sometimes I need that. He helps me out. I got on him because one time he didn’t get me right. He said, ‘I knew that, but I didn’t want to say anything.’ Now he’s back there, he’s talking more and he’s getting involved more. He’s getting comfortable.”
Green speaking up and helping Adams shows his comfort level on the field. The Colts want Green to continue to have that comfort level along with being a steady contributor because he’ll be in the starting lineup when they play the Detroit Lions in Week 1 barring a miraculous recovery from Clayton Geathers in the next 11 days.
“He has no choice,” coach Chuck Pagano said about Green starting.
This is a substantial leap for Green. He went from being a last-minute signee at Clemson as a receiver before switching to safety, to being selected in the second round of the NFL draft, to preparing to start on a defense that desperately needs to get younger and better. Green likely will join Antonio Cromartie and Patrick Robinson as new starters at defensive back for the Colts.
"We didn’t draft him to continue to improve at the little things, we drafted him because the guy has tremendous skill and great recoverability, and he shows that over and over again," defensive coordinator Ted Monachino said. "He is an excellent tackler in the run game and he has great range in the back end. As he continues to develop, grow, gain experience and maturity, then he is only going to get better and better."
This was supposed to be somewhat of a learning season for Green. He’d learn from Adams and Geathers before eventually replacing the 35-year-old Adams in the starting lineup in the next season or two.
That changed when Geathers, the expected starter, arrived at camp at the end of July with a boot on his right foot. Geathers has yet to practice over the past five weeks, which has thrust Green into the starting position.
“It’s been fairly smooth for me,” Green said. “Being thrown out there with the (starters) really helped my progress. Learning and playing beside Mike has also helped.”
Green, who ran a 4.3-second 40-yard dash during the combine, has 10 tackles in the preseason. He’s better against the run than he is in coverage. The Colts are well aware of that and know the Clemson product likely will experience his share of ups and downs.
“I think this guy brings a physical presence to our defense,” Pagano said. “He has great length and great speed. We have to continue to work on his coverage stuff. He is excellent in and around the box down close to the line of scrimmage. As a middle/post safety, a deep-half safety, he has great range, he has great ball skills and the game is not too big for him.
“As he progresses leading up to the (September) 11th, I have full confidence that T.J. is going to go out and play winning football for us. There are going to be some hiccups; he is a rookie.”