TAMPA Tampa Bay Buccaneers left tackle Donald Penn doesn't have vivid memories of his first NFL start.
All he remembers is being matched up against Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, which is precisely why his memory is so foggy.
"That game is just like a big blur to me, because everything was going so fast,'' Penn said of a 33-14 loss at the RCA Dome on Oct. 7, 2007. "To be honest with you, there's not really too much to remember about that game, because we and we weren't on the field that long.
"But I've grown as an athlete since then. I know I'm better now than I was then. I'm a totally different player now. I'm a lot smarter and I'm more technically sound.''
Penn will face Freeney and the Colts again Monday night at Raymond James Stadium. He hopes his improvement, which was confirmed by his placement on last year's NFC Pro Bowl squad, will help Tampa Bay get a better result.
The Bucs are favored by more than a touchdown against a team without its best player, quarterback Peyton Manning. Indianapolis has struggled out of the gate, losing its first three games.
But Penn isn't taking the Colts lightly. Freeney has improved as well, he said, and the Colts' defense is the strength of the team.
"We looked a that last game and their defense really kept them in it,'' Penn said of the Colts' 23-20 loss to the Steelers on Sunday night. "So, it's a big challenge for me and for this team. I've got my work cut out for me.''
Nothing new there.
Penn has faced a steady diet of top-level pass rushers this season: Detroit's Kyle Vanden Bosch, Minnesota's Jared Allen and Atlanta's John Abraham.
"It's been the story of the season for me so far,'' Penn said. "(Freeney) is one of those guys. He's on top of the list. I'm just going to have to focus and study hard.
"Hopefully I don't jinx myself and I just keep playing good and don't take a (step backward). The season has been going so far so good. But I'm a key again. I just have to keep playing well.''