Colts Players to Reto Training Camp in Terre Haute Thursday
INDIANAPOLIS – The unusual is obvious as Colts Training Camp 2008 prepares to open.
Quarterback Peyton Manning won't be available early.
And for a while, neither will two other multiple Pro Bowl players, defensive end Dwight Freeney and safety Bob Sanders, last season's NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
That's what's different about Colts camp this year.
But Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy – entering in his seventh season with the team – said his focus isn't necessarily on what's new, nor is it on who won't participate early, or even on the somewhat early date on which the team is opening camp.
His focus, he said, is the same as it has been for several seasons:
Getting his message through to a veteran team.
"(My concern) is that we won't take things for granted, and we won't get bored with how we do things," Dungy said as the Colts prepared to report to Training Camp 2008 on Thursday morning/afternoon at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind.
"For some of our guys, it will be seven years hearing the same message, doing things the same way, talking about the details. I think we have the right type of people who understand those details are still important and they still need to be focused in on them. I think if we do that, our talent level and effort is going to be good enough to make us a good team.
"I think we do have the type of guys who will stay the course and not get bored with the little details."
The details of camp – now in its 10th season at Rose-Hulman – will change slightly, Dungy said –a change brought about by several factors.
The Colts, who open preseason in the NFL's Hall of Fame Game against the Washington Redskins in Canton, Ohio, on Sunday, August 3, could enter camp with six players – Manning, offensive guard Ryan Lilja, rookie tight end Tom Santi, Freeney, Sanders and linebacker Tyjuan Hagler – on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
The participation in the Hall of Fame Game gives the Colts five preseason games rather than the usual four.
That, along with the six possible PUP players and a new league rule restricting teams to 80 players in camp, prompted Dungy to alter the training camp schedule slightly.
Not only will the Colts open camp a few days earlier than normal, Dungy said the team will hold fewer two-a-day practices.
"We wanted to continue doing what we do, which is working hard and building on those fundamentals, building that chemistry," Dungy said, "but we're going to try to roll with the punches and deal with the hand we've been dealt in terms of a few less players and five games rather than four.
"There may be a few less two-a-days and a few more breaks in between for the players, but when we do work we want to have the same tempo and the same energy level with the players we have."
On the field, the early part of the camp schedule will be different, too, Dungy said.
"We've normally opened up in pads," Dungy said. "We're going to open up without pads for the first time. We're going to give them that break after two days. We didn't want to be in (camp) a full two weeks before we played the first game.
"I think we can still get enough done to be ready for the Redskins. We'll give them some breaks. We want to look at the whole five weeks (of camp) and not necessarily the first game."
With Manning expected to miss the early part of camp following a recent procedure on his knee, Dungy said the Colts may consider signing a quarterback in the coming days. In addition to Manning, the Colts have two quarterbacks with prior camp experience with the club – Jim Sorgi, Manning's top backup since 2004, and Josh Betts, a practice-squad player the past two seasons.
"We may look at that," Dungy said. "We'll see how it goes. I think the farther we go along in this process, the more certain we'll be in narrowing down a date Peyton's going to be back. It may be a situation where in a couple of days we do something. We'll have to wait and see."
Sorgi, who never has started an NFL regular season game, likely will play more extensively in the preseason games than Manning might have played in similar situations, Dungy said.
"We'll make it work," Dungy said. "In a lot of ways, it will be good for us. It will help us. It will be a blessing in disguise. (Offensive coordinator) Tom Moore, (Associate Head Coach) Jim Caldwell and I really talked in June about doing a little more with Jim (Sorgi) with the first group and giving Jim a chance to go and giving us a chance to look at him with the first group.
"That was something we wanted to do with those extra games anyway. That was going to be a plan of ours, so it kind of works out that we will get a chance to do that."
Manning's return also may alter how the Colts approach preseason. Typically, they have used the third of four preseason games as a relatively intense tune-up, approaching the game in the same fashion as a regular-season game and playing most starters into the third quarter.
"Because we're playing the Cincinnati game (the preseason finale) on a Thursday, we'll still have nine days off (before the regular-season opener against the Chicago Bears)," Dungy said. "We could flip that around and make the fourth one a dress rehearsal game.
"I'd like to see them (the starters on PUP) play a game before we go on. If it doesn't work out that way, we'll make the best of it."
And while some players sometimes talk about the drudgery of training camp, Dungy said he's "always excited this time of the year."
"You're always ready to go back to work," Dungy said. "I'm looking forward to being there on Thursday and getting back into that atmosphere. One of the good things is we haven't seen any of our players for six weeks, so it's exciting to see them again and get going.
"I always look forward to training camp."