Kerry Collins is still recovering after suffering concussion-like symptoms Sunday against Pittsburgh and his status remains in doubt. That means the Colts are getting Painter ready for what would be his first NFL start.
"You have to," Colts coach Jim Caldwell said Thursday. "There's no other way to do it. I had this old adage when I started coaching that you've got to coach who shows up. Today, Curtis is practicing and Kerry is not, so obviously, we have to get him (Curtis) ready for the ball game."
Indy signed quarterback Dan Orlovsky to the active roster on Wednesday to provide depth. Peyton Manning isn't expected to return until November or December as he recovers from neck surgery.
Painter has mostly struggled during his tenure Indianapolis, but he directed the Colts to a game-tying touchdown against Pittsburgh before Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a game-winning field goal.
"I think what Curtis has shown is that he's improved," Caldwell said. "He has been able to do it consistently, just get a little bit better six inches at a time. He's familiar with our system, and I think he'll function very well."
The third-year pro feels he'll be ready if called upon.
"It certainly would be a great opportunity," Painter said. "I'd enjoy that and I'm sure it would be a lot of fun. Big game, Monday night game, so it would be very exciting."
Painter received the bulk of the work with the starters during training camp.
"The biggest thing that helped me was this camp, getting a ton of reps," he said. "I think the biggest thing is being comfortable with the offense."
The Colts' injury problems at quarterback have led to speculation that Indy might try to sign another veteran, including David Garrard. Owner Jim Irsay, however, tweeted this week that the Colts don't have the salary for certain moves.
"Thanks 4 some of the supportive comments, but u have to understand, this isn't fantasy football,caps at 121 Mil.,we're 128,no room 4 Garrard," he wrote.
Collins was a late pickup during training camp who still is learning the offense. That will work against him if he doesn't recover quickly.
"You can't get those snaps back, and preparation is important for a guy that's new in the system," Caldwell said.
Painter admits he was caught off guard a bit against Pittsburgh, in part because he didn't realize that Collins was hurt right away. Now that he has practiced with the first unit all week, he expects Monday's game to go more smoothly if he plays.
"It's one thing to get mental reps, kind of watching other people do it, and it's another to actually be in there with the guys and getting actual reps," he said.