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Last updated: Thu. Aug. 07, 2014 - 01:44 am EDT

Preseason prime time arrives for Colts' Harnish

Third-string quarterback hopes to show improvement in games

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Colts at New York Jets

NFL preseason

Kickoff: Colts at Jets, 7 p.m. today

TV: WFFT, Ch. 55

For more on the Colts, follow Reggie Hayes via Twitter at www.twitter.com/reggiehayes1

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ANDERSON – Chandler Harnish fields a similar question from family, friends and fans on the street.

What does he think this season has in store for him? A spot on the Indianapolis Colts active roster? Another season on the practice squad? Other possibilities in his third NFL go-round?

“I never look too far ahead; I let everybody else try to figure out what's going to happen,” Harnish said. “Everyone always asks, 'Where do you see yourself this year?' I see myself going to practice tomorrow and having the best practice of my life. That's what you have to do. You have to live in the moment.”

Harnish's prime-time moments are fast approaching. He'll likely play quarterback for a stretch of the second half when the Colts play at the New York Jets at 7 tonight in Metlife Stadium (WFFT, Ch. 55).

Andrew Luck and the first-team offense will play a series or two, Matt Hasselbeck and the second-team offense will come into the game in relief and Harnish and various combinations of the second- and third-team offense will finish things off.

In other words, by the time Norwell High School alum Harnish takes the field, most casual fans will be losing interest.

Harnish's time during the preseason will peak with extensive playing time in the fourth game at Cincinnati later this month. Only then, when the team trims its roster to the final 53, will he look at the next step.

“The four preseason games are my evaluation, along with a lot of other guys who are kind of on the cusp, whether you're practice squad or active roster or in jeopardy of not making the team,” Harnish said. “This is really important for us and you treat every day like it's your last day and come out here as prepared as possible. You want to make every rep count. Not just every practice, but every single rep.”

Harnish had one of his more active practice days on Tuesday as the second- and third-team players received more playing time in the non-contact practice.

The trick in judging Harnish's play during the preseason is to consider the fact he'll be playing with a relatively makeshift offensive line, and won't enter the first game with nearly as much simulated live action.

“That's the nature of the business,” Harnish said. “A lot of guys come and go and you get reps at times. You have curveballs thrown your way. It's really important to communicate with those guys, especially the line, throughout the day in meetings, the weight room, walkthroughs and practice so you have those relationships built up and you can communicate effectively with whoever is on the line.”

Hasselbeck, who has been a Super Bowl starter and a backup, said it's difficult for a quarterback to play behind a line that doesn't have a lot of playing time as a unit.

“It's even tougher for Chandler, tougher for the next guy, especially up front of the offensive line, new faces, and it just takes one guy to step left instead of right or take a short step instead of a big step and the play has no chance of being successful,” Hasselbeck said. “That's just part of it. You just have to do your job and play as well as you can and trust that everybody else is prepared and ready to go.”

Harnish was drafted with the final pick of the 2012 draft and was part of the 53-man roster for five games that season, although inactive on game day, before being signed to the practice squad. He spent the entire 2013 season on the practice squad.

Harnish said he feels this training camp has been a step forward.

“It's a night-and-day difference,” he said. “Every year is building brick on top of brick. It's just a huge improvement, from being more confident in the pocket to understanding the offense on a greater level to having better leadership skills.”

He said his improvement has been a combination of being a year older and understanding more of what the coaching staff wants and expects from him. His strong relationships with teammates, coaches and management have helped him improve his game, he said.

Game time is upon Harnish, and he's eager to embrace it.

“I can't wait,” he said. “This is what you train for. This is what you're in training camp for. All the long days and long nights, the heat, everything in between, the stress – this is what it's for. The lights are on, you get to go out and play and have fun.”

rhayes@news-sentinel.com


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