Minnesota at Colts
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium
TV: FOX, Ch. 33.2
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM
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INDIANAPOLIS – Colts backup safety Joe Lefeged's job security hinges on a few seconds every game.
Lefeged plays some in the defense, coming off the bench occasionally if Antoine Bethea or Tom Zbikowski need a breather. But those plays can be few and far between. So his job, and his value to the Colts, lies in special teams.
He takes his career a few seconds at a time.
“You can win a game or lose a game with special teams,” Lefeged said. “We're trying to change the culture around here. A lot of years, we've been pretty bad in special teams. One of the things we've focused on since OTAs (summer workouts) is being one of the better special teams units in the league.”
The Colts (0-1) play the Minnesota Vikings (1-0) in their home opener at 1 p.m. Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium.
Lefeged, a second year player out of Rutgers, made his presence known twice in the season opener in Chicago. Playing the role of right “gunner” on punts, Lefeged twice beat Pat McAfee's punt downfield and batted it back so teammate Justin Hickman could down it inside the 5-yard line.
The Colts seized one of those field-position plays when linebacker Jerrell Freeman picked off Bears quarterback Jay Cutler for a short touchdown return.
"Special teams plays like that can change the momentum of a football game,” Lefeged said. “Pat's a great punter, so I knew where the ball's going to be. He's done it in practice and done it in games in the past. I know where he's going to place that football. I just have to get to that spot.”
Lefeged said special teams coach Marwan Maalouf and assistant special teams coach Brant Boyer have spent hours working on schemes and techniques with the goal of being one of the NFL's best. There's work to do, obviously. The return game took a hit when LaVon Brazill fumbled, and even the great Adam Vinatieri missed a field goal he usually makes.
“As soon as the new coaching staff got here, there was an emphasis on special teams,” Lefeged said.
Like all special teams players, Lefeged longs for a shot at a regular spot in the defense. He played in all 16 games last season, starting once, with 31 tackles and two interceptions. He says he puts an equal amount of effort in practice into both his play on special teams and the Colts' defense.
“You have to start somewhere,” Lefeged said. “If you're not a starter, you have to play special teams. If you don't, you're not playing on the football team, period. You have to know your role, embrace it and go out and do your job.”