Colts Hold Free, Open Practice at Lucas Oil Stadium
INDIANAPOLIS – Dallas Clark saw it as a real opunity.
Clark, an eight-year veteran tight end, said when the Colts worked Saturday afternoon, the opportunity went beyond the usual off-season goal of improving timing and acclimating young players to the team's way of operating.
Because while Saturday's work was that, it was more.
The Colts on Saturday afternoon held an one-hour, forty-five minute practice at Lucas Oil Stadium, with the day beginning with a fan open house at the stadium presented by CardioChek and Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield.
The open house began at 10 a.m., and included activities on the field such as live music, appearances by Blue and the Colts Cheerleaders, a Colts garage sale, unique photo opportunities and free cholesterol screenings. The field was then cleared for a 2:15 full-squad practice.
"There's real energy, especially with the fans in there," Clark, a first-round selection in the 2003 NFL Draft who last season made his first Pro Bowl appearance.
"It's a chance to come out and see what our practices are like and kind of give them an inside view besides what they usually see on Sunday."
The Colts worked through a variety of non-contact drills, working in front of several thousand fans with the roof closed.
Fans were also given free autograph and schedule posters following the practice.
"It's a great chance for our fans to come out and see us go to work," Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackett said. "We get excited about it and when you have people watching you, you go a little harder."
The Colts also practiced Friday and will work again Sunday, with a final week of their four-week organized team activities scheduled to be held next week. OTAs are scheduled to end Friday.
The Colts held a three-day rookie mini-camp on the first weekend of May, with the rookies returning to work with the team when OTAs began in mid-May.
"It's a time for us to communicate and get a lot of development done, to show those guys how we practice, how we prepare ourselves before we get onto the field," Brackett said. "Those things carry onto training camp, then into the regular season."
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said the process of getting those players ready is particularly important considering the Colts' perennial status as one of the NFL's youngest teams.
"Every year we've added new players, mostly via the draft with young guys," Manning said. "We're still one of the youngest teams in the league. We try to draft guys that can play like veterans right away. Look at (wide receiver Austin) Collie last year and (running back) Donald Brown, we're not treating those guys like rookies.
"We're counting on them to produce right away, and that will be the same for a number of our young players this year."
Manning said that yearly infusion of youth makes not only mini-camp, but the entire off-season/OTA period as enjoyable as it is important.
"I certainly enjoy after the draft when the young guys get here," said Manning, who is entering his 13th NFL season. "It gets you excited about football and reminds you why you love it, and you like helping young guys kind of coaching them somewhat, if you will.
"I enjoy that part of it. But it does take work because you're trying to teach these guys the offense and also the way we do things here at the Colts facility from a work ethic standpoint, so every year you are having to start over again. You can't just sit back and hope they figure it out.
"You've got to jump in the middle to teach them the offense and get them up to speed on how to be a professional football player, so I think it's important all of our veterans do that."
Clark said that's part of what fans got to see at practice Saturday, and a part of what mini-camp is about – the process of veterans and rookies alike preparing themselves for what's to come when the Colts open training camp at Anderson (Ind.) University on August 1.
"They get to see the coaching aspects, and the drills we do every day," Clark said. "They get to see the drills we do. It's a great opportunity for them to watch us and it's a great opportunity for us get better in a different environment and just make the most of it.
"That's definitely a huge thing about mini-camp. There's a lot of good tempo and a lot of speed. We don't have pads on. We just have helmets, but you want to play fast and get that timing down coming out of your breaks – things you can't really do just running in our drills out in conditioning.
"This really gives us a good chance of hearing the verbiage, hearing the calls and making the adjustments as you go and really get back in the football aspect of things."