INDIANAPOLIS – Colts players now have completed the bulk of the rookie camp. Four of five scheduled practices are history, with one remaining Sunday morning.
New faces are plenty on the 90-man roster and they dot the coaching staff.
Pep Hamilton is one such face, joining the Colts as offensive coordinator after holding the same role at Stanford for the past two seasons.
Hamilton worked in two places – Stanford and San Francisco – where the legendary Bill Walsh did, and the talented Hamilton in 2006 worked his way into the 49ers’ vaults to study tapes of how the offensive guru installed the West Coast offense.
“We really want to press upon our guys to be open-minded,” said Hamilton. “We are going to continue to build on the success that they had last year.
“They were able to push the ball downfield and made a ton of big plays in the passing game.”
Counting the playoffs, Luck topped 50 attempts on four occasions, one-fifth of the times it has been accomplished in the Colts’ 60-year history.
“We want to try and balance it out some and be able to run the football, and do a good job of creating conflicts for our opponents,” said Hamilton.
The rush:pass ratio in Indianapolis was tilted heavily through the air for many past seasons. At Stanford the last two years, the offense rushed 54.2 and 55.9 percent of the time under Hamilton.
Cardinal quarterbacks hit 71.3 and 60.2 percent of their passes for a 7.87 yards per attempt average while sporting a 56:20 touchdown:interception ratio and suffering only 30 sacks in 846 pass calls.
Luck endured 41 sacks in 2012, while a statistical service estimated he took 148 hits and a combined 245 sacks, hits and hurries.
Indianapolis rushed the ball more often than it passed in only three games, victories over Cleveland, Houston and Jacksonville.
Hamilton says the offense still is in the incubation stages, but worries need not persist – playmakers still will get the ball, and often.
What needs to happen more often is a bunker presence in front of a talented Luck.
“Without a doubt,” said Hamilton if everything starts with protection. “You’ve got to keep the quarterback upright.
“Coach (Joe) Gilbert, our offensive line coach, is doing a great job of making sure we develop that continuity up front and continue to work on communicating and making sure we are on the same page from a protection standpoint.”
ALSO SATURDAY – The afternoon session, like Friday, lasted 105 minutes, and it was conducted indoors (outdoor temperatures were around 57 degrees with cloudy skies). The pace was crisp, and a portion of the work was special teams. Tom McMahon is the new coordinator.
He praised his players for attentiveness in the classroom and the ability to focus on their jobs. While some are getting work on the return game, McMahon expects to play through preseason before deciding on punt and kickoff returnmen.
EMOTIONAL SUNDAY –
Thornton’s mother, Michele, and eight-year-old sister, Marley, were murdered on January 2, 2004 in their home in Jamaica. Thornton, 12 at the time, was asleep in a different room and was awakened by the screams of an aunt when she found them.
The tragic incident, which remains unsolved, triggered at least five moves for Thornton, with one being to a foster home. Prior to that night, Thornton had lived with his mom in Ohio as well. His father, Mark, lived in Idaho, and Thornton spent time there, too.
Thornton attended three different high schools and finished in Ohio before enrolling at Illinois. There, he started 35 career games and landed on the Colts’ radar screen prior to his final season. The Colts took Thornton in the third round, 86th overall.
As Thornton goes through day three of the club’s camp Sunday, his mother and sister still provide him with inspiration to make the most of his life.
“There’s no better way to celebrate someone than through achievement,” said Thornton. “I’ve made it here and I’ll be practicing on Mother’s Day, and my mom is going to be proud looking down on me.
“And I do it for my sister. I’ve got four sisters, and that’s my mom’s legacy pretty much. I’m just out here representing my family and I’m enjoying it while I’m doing it.”
The past nine years have been arduous, and his steps in dealing with tragedy always have not been perfect. The chance to persevere in the NFL causes reflection.
“(There’s) a ton (of reflection), but then again I’m trying to focus on my future,” said Thornton. “I wouldn’t be here without my past. I’m thankful for all the people that have helped me along the way and all the things I’ve had to overcome to get here.
“In life you have a lot of adversity and you reach a fork in the road where you can either go the right way or you can go the other. You’ve got to make a decision and once you make that decision, you run with it.”