ANDERSON – His intensity rivals that of any player or coach on the Colts practice field.
Whether it’s in individual drills or 11-on-11 settings, Colts linebackers coach Jeff Fitzgerald isn’t afraid to display his emotions.
That energy is infectious, and Fitzgerald’s linebackers feed off the constant presence, and teaching, of their position coach.
The 2014 campaign marks the 17th straight season Fitzgerald has coached an NFL linebackers group.
Guys like London Fletcher, Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs have learned under a coach, who the entire nation gets to see in his element at the NFL Combine each February. There, Fitzgerald emphatically takes linebackers through position drills.
Fitzgerald comes into the 2014 season with a wide range of players at the Colts linebackers group.
From Pro Bowl veterans to talented rookies, Fitzgerald has a collection of linebackers that he holds in high regard.
“Our personnel department has done a great job and now we’ve got some legit competition going on and I like our depth a lot,” Fitzgerald says.
“It might be, and I hate to stretch myself a little bit until we get out here and get moving and I see some of these guys moving, this has the potential to be one of the best depth group of linebackers I’ve ever had, and that says a lot.”
In 11-on-11 action in Anderson, Fitzgerald is always sticking his nose in the trenches immediately after plays are blown dead.
Coaches and players typically stand behind the offense and as soon as that whistle shrieks, there’s Fitzgerald jumping into the fray searching for a linebacker.
He’s bringing a message with him because he thinks the potential of his 2014 group has an extremely high ceiling.
“I’m not going to talk about technique/fundamentals, that’s a given. It’s a mindset about how we go about our work. That’s my focus here,” Fitzgerald said back on move-in day.
“I want the linebacker group to be a solid leadership group. I want a lot from them. I have very high expectations for them. The group that I have, they are well capable. It’s a mindset. I want guys that are going out there with an attitude like…throughout the group, controlled aggression, smart players flying around to the football and dominating. I want guys hitting people."
For those who can’t get up to Anderson to see Fitzgerald operate, just make sure you arrive to Lucas Oil Stadium a little earlier on game days.
Fitzgerald huddles his linebackers up before warmups and provides a thump or two on his players shoulders pads while they circle around their position coach.
An intense look will span across Fitzgerald’s face, a man who truly believes greatness is on the horizon for the Colts linebackers.
“Getting to the ball, that’s going to be our primary, initial group focus as we get started,” he says. “Those things we are going to get or there’s going to be a lot of misery if we don’t. I don’t think there’s going to be misery because I think we have the right type of guys in there.
“I want them angry. I want them pissed off. I want them knowing the opponent is the enemy and that’s all there is to it. Looking back on the cut-ups from last year, (some) embarrassed me as a coach and it all starts with me. I’ve taken good notice. Those things burn holes in me, in my heart and I want them right so we are going to get it right.”