INDIANAPOLIS —Welcome back to Indianapolis. Please enjoy your stay.
The National Football League world has returned for its annual trip to the Circle City, which is once again playing host to the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The next six days are a very important period for new Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich, specifically, who has spent much of the past 2 1/2 weeks since his hiring trying to get all caught up on watching film on the 2017 Colts players, getting his brand new coaching staff assembled — which was just finalized yesterday — and, of course, shaking hands and kissing babies (and Boomer, the Indiana Pacers’ mascot).
But now, Reich and members of his new staff get their first real chance to get out of the Colts' facility and really dig in and do some work with general manager Chris Ballard and his personnel staff to start finding the next crop of players they believe will really start to get the organization back to its winning ways.
So with that in mind, here are a few Colts-centric things to watch for over the next few days at the NFL Combine:
• Reich, Ballard speak
Wednesday is the start of the Combine media sessions, and will be used this day just for NFL head coaches and general managers.
Reich is scheduled to talk to the media around 2:30 p.m. today, while Ballard will follow at 3 p.m.
One of the primary topics likely to be covered is how Reich and Ballard's partnership has gotten off the ground so far, and what they want to accomplish together over the next few days at the Combine.
"When we started this process, we kind of put down a list of things we were looking for. We wanted a leader, a guy who has a big picture vision, who is honest, smart, adaptable, can communicate, who is a teacher and who is a partner," Ballard said of Reich at his introductory press conference. "I have no question that we've found that with Frank."• New, new, new
The Colts this year will have a first-year NFL head coach, a first-year NFL offensive coordinator, a first-year NFL defensive coordinator and a first-year NFL special teams coordinator.
This year's Combine will really be the first opportunity for Reich, Nick Sirianni, Matt Eberflus and Bubba Ventrone to begin making their mark.
For Reich and Sirianni, they'll be trying to find the right pieces for their fast-paced, aggressive offense they've been talking about installing. They'll be keeping a close eye on the on-field workouts to see which players can handle the pressure and keep up the energy, for sure.
For Eberflus, the focus will be on getting the right people in place for the Colts' switch back to a 4-3, Tampa 2 base defense. After being in the 3-4 the past six seasons under previous head coach Chuck Pagano, Eberflus has been brought in to get the Colts in a quicker defensive scheme, the same one in which the team found success the previous decade under Hall of Fame head coach Tony Dungy. Keep an eye on the pass-rushing defensive ends, as well as the athletic linebackers, specifically, as these are the key pieces to any successful 4-3.
Ventrone, meanwhile, seems to have his core special teams positions locked in for now in Adam Vinatieri (kicker) and Rigoberto Sanchez (punter/kickoff specialist/holder), while long snapper Luke Rhodes is set to become an exclusive rights free agent and could very well return, too. But Ventrone wants to find guys that, like he did in his own playing days, can make an impact covering kicks — and getting their hands on them, too. For many of the prospects taking part in this week's drills, special teams will be critical in their development as far as finding their way onto the field early in their careers.
• Meet and greet
The NFL Combine is great for watching the future crop of NFL players try to show what they're made of in on-field drills, but what's happening off the field is just as important.
The next few days will be a very important opportunity for the Colts' brass to begin targeting specific prospects and bringing them in for face-to-face interviews, which is where, with the right questions and approach, they can really start to figure out which players could really fit into the new culture in Indy — and, frankly, who couldn't.
But with everyone, including player agents, in town all in the same general place for a few days, the Combine also always serves as a prime opportunity for teams to discuss free agency plans. The league's new year, and free agency, begins at 4 p.m. ET March 14, remember.
The Colts have 13 players from last year's team set to become unrestricted free agents at that time, so if they were hoping to bring any of them back, this week could serve as a prime opportunity to hash out those details with their representatives.
Oh, and let's not forget about the fact that the Colts hold a very valuable asset in the No. 3-overall pick. Perhaps Ballard will be using that as a conversation piece with other GMs to begin getting an idea of what other teams will be willing to give up to move that high up in the draft?
Finally, here's the general schedule of events for this year's NFL Scouting Combine (all times Eastern):
— Wednesday, Feb. 28: Media sessions (head coaches and GMs)
— Thursday, March 1: Media sessions (running backs, offensive linemen)
— Friday, March 2: Media sessions (quarterbacks, wide receivers, tight ends), on-field workouts (running backs, offensive linemen, special teams)— Saturday, March 3: Media sessions (defensive linemen, linebackers), on-field workouts (quarterbacks, wide receivers, tight ends)
— Sunday, March 4: Media sessions (defensive backs), on-field workouts (defensive linemen, linebackers)
— Monday, March 5: On-field workouts (defensive backs)