Dungy Pleased with 14-Day, Four-Week Period of Organized Team Activities
INDIANAPOLIS – To Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy, the four weeks that just ended were imant ones.
The rookies made progress.
The veterans got good work. And, when appropriate, good rest.
All in all, Dungy said the Colts took significant steps during the four-week, 14-day organized team activities at the team's practice facility toward preparing for the 2008 season.
But as important as the OTAs may have been, Dungy said this much is true:
The coming weeks are just as important.
Maybe even more so.
"The next six weeks will be critical," Dungy, entering his seventh season as the Colts' head coach, said on Thursday, the final day of the Colts' 2008 OTAs.
"I told our team today on our last day the next 12 weeks will really determine what type of team we're going to have."
While Thursday was the last day of on-field, organized work with position coaches, many players – including the team's nine selections in the 2008 NFL Draft and the rookie free agents – will spend at least part of the coming weeks in Indianapolis working out.
The Colts, who have made the playoffs in eight of the last nine seasons, have won the last five AFC South titles, a stretch that included a Super Bowl-championship season in 2006.
"We're always optimistic and that's usually been born out," Colts President Bill Polian said Thursday. "I'm very happy with where we are, and so is Tony and so is (Colts Owner and Chief Executive Officer) Jim (Irsay). We feel good about the health of our squad and we feel good about the depth we've created at various positions. We feel good about the battles we're going to have in training camp for jobs. That's always a good thing.
"We're anxious to see how they pan out over five preseason games."
Polian said one of his main worries entering training camp is a new rule allowing teams to take just 80 players to training camp.
"I wish we had six or seven more players, but that can't be helped," Polian said. "The only worry we have going in is how we manage the roster – 80-men through five games. Other than that, we'll let water seek its own level and we think the level will be pretty good."
Players are scheduled to report to training camp at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind., on Thursday, July 24, with practices scheduled to begin the next morning.
The Colts will open the preseason against the Washington Redskins in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, on Sunday, August 3, then will open the regular season with a nationally-televised Sunday Night game against the Chicago Bears on September 7.
That game will be the first regular-season game in Lucas Oil Stadium.
"The next six weeks is really their part of it," Dungy said of the players. "They have to condition on their own. They have to do what it takes to get themselves ready to come to camp. Then, the six weeks after that, we have to have the best training camp/preseason plan as coaches we can have for them. It's not long – 12 weeks from this weekend, we'll be kicking off against the Bears."
Dungy recently said the Colts altered the schedule for OTAs this offseason, focusing more on the needs of various experience levels. The sessions alternated between group and team work, Dungy said.
"I think it was very, very good from our standpoint," Dungy said. "We got the young guys indoctrinated into things. We got our veteran guys a lot of work, but we also got them some rest. I think the times we were out there as a team we developed that chemistry and that work ethic together. The other times, the off weeks, we really got a chance for the young guys to answer their questions, to get grounded in our philosophy. It seemed like it went fast, so that's probably a good sign."
Another good sign, Dungy said, was the continued development of the 2007 rookie class, a group that includes defensive tackle Ed Johnson, offensive tackle Tony Ugoh, wide receivers Anthony Gonzalez and Roy Hall, safeties Melvin Bullitt and Brannon Condren, as well as linebackers Clint Session and Ramon Guzman and defensive tackles Quinn Pitcock and Keyunta Dawson.
"You can see them becoming more and more comfortable – more leadership coming out of those guys," Dungy said. "Our receivers, Anthony Gonzalez and Roy Hall, are really more on the same page with Peyton. Our young defenders are feeling a little more confident.
"I think we're going to see that improvement from Tony Ugoh and Anthony and Roy Hall and Brannon Condren, Clint Session . . . They're so much more relaxed."
And Dungy said while the division titles of the past five seasons typically have begun with solid offseasons and quality preparation, such focus is just as important now.
That, he said, was a topic when he addressed the team Thursday.
How they respond will be critical in the coming season.
"That's one thing I've warned the players about: don't take anything for granted, don't assume we're going to come back and have a great year," Dungy said. "We have to make it happen by working so hard these next 12 weeks."