INDIANAPOLIS — With the Indianapolis Colts set to begin training camp soon at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind., Colts.com previews the team's special teamers:
— Luke Rhodes
— Rigoberto Sanchez
— Adam Vinatieri
NOTABLE CAMP BATTLES:
— Mike Badgley (kicker)
The Colts had the ultimate in continuity at kicker last season in future Hall of Famer Adam Vinatieri, but had unknowns at the two other core specialists positions in rookie punter Rigoberto Sanchez and first-year long snapper Luke Rhodes.
Both Sanchez and Rhodes answered the call — and then some — in their first years alongside Vinatieri in 2017.
Sanchez, filling the shoes of the retired Pat McAfee, was named to the Pro Football Writers of America's (PFWA) 2017 NFL All-Rookie Team after finishing with a 44.8 yards-per-punt average and ranking fourth in the league with a 42.6 net punting average, setting franchise rookie records for total punts (84) and punt yards (3,764); Rhodes, meanwhile, appeared to handle his duties extremely well for a converted linebacker who hadn't snapped since high school prior to last offseason.
Then there's Vinatieri, who was solid as ever last season and re-signed with the Colts in February for his 23rd NFL season (and 13th in Indy).
Vinatieri enters the 2018 season just 58 points and seven made field goals shy of passing the great Morten Andersen to become the NFL's all-time career leader in both categories, further cementing his status as the greatest kicker in league history.
When talking about the Colts' returner positions, however, there could very well be some change from last season.
Chester Rogers is back this year to try to win the kick and punt returner jobs again, but he'll face competition from several candidates. Fourth-round pick Nyheim Hines was dynamic as a returner at North Carolina State, and will definitely get a fair shake at kickoffs, while he'll continue to work on his punt returns.
Others who could get opportunities to return during training camp and the preseason include running backs Marlon Mack, Josh Ferguson and Christine Michael, and wide receiver Deon Cain.
And don't be surprised to see wide receiver T.Y. Hilton back fielding punts at some point during practice. Remember: Hilton was the Colts' primary punt returner his rookie year in 2012 and averaged 11.5 yards per return and had a touchdown, and he also returned 17 punts the following season.