Three-Day Mandatory Mini-Camp Includes Free, Open Practice Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium
INDIANAPOLIS – They have worked already for weeks, and made progress.
That preparation for the 2010 season will continue for the Colts through next week, as they continue their off-season program, but this weekend's mandatory work – while critical to the team's off-season development – also will include a significant, fan-friendly twist.
An open practice at Lucas Oil Stadium.
That practice, which will be held Saturday, is one of three days in a mini-camp that is mandatory by NFL rules for all players under contract, but while it is just part of the weekend's work, it was a part players and coaches anticipated during this past week.
It's a chance to work, yes. And it's imant in that vein.
But it's also the only opportunity before training camp to work in front of fans, and that's an important thing, too.
"I think that's a good thing," Colts running back Joseph Addai said this week following a session of the Colts' 2010 organized team activities, four weeks of on-field, team-oriented activities scheduled to be held through June 11 at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
"A lot of families don't have a chance to come out to the games, so they can see us up close and see how we prepare for those games, so I think that's a good thing to have."
The practice is part of a fan-oriented day Saturday, with a Fan Open House at Lucas Oil Stadium presented by CardioChek and Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield. That will begin at 10 a.m., and will include activities on the field such as live music, appearances by Blue and the Colts Cheerleaders, a Colts garage sale, unique photo opportunities, free cholesterol screenings and more.
The field will be cleared at 2:15 for a full-squad practice.
And while the on-field work will remain the focus, players said this week they are hardly unaware of the meaning of having fans be able to see the off-season.
"It's important, especially with wherever training camp is, a lot of people can't get out to see it," Colts left tackle Charlie Johnson said this week before the team announced it will train at Anderson (Ind.) University in Anderson, Ind., this summer.
"They can get out, come to the stadium, come to a free practice and watch us work. It's good for them, and it's good for us to keep the fans involved and let them see all the work we put in."
The Colts, the defending AFC and AFC South Champions, have been in off-season conditioning since mid-April, and began OTAs two weeks ago. They began a stretch of eight practices in 11 days this past week, a stretch that includes not only more organized team activities, but this weekend's mandatory mini-camp.
In addition to the open practice Saturday, the Colts also will hold two mini-camp workouts on Friday and Sunday, with three more days of OTAs scheduled next week.
After that, the Colts will have a month and a half before training camp, and Head Coach Jim Caldwell said this week that makes the coming weeks critical ones.
"We are right in the thick of it right now," Caldwell said this week. "At this point, things have been moving along as planned."
While this weekend's mini-camp is the lone mandatory off-season sessions for veterans, an emphasis remains for the next few days on getting rookies acclimated to the Colts' system in preparation for training camp. The Colts held a three-day rookie mini-camp earlier this month, a session designed to accelerate the acclimation process for the younger players, and after this weekend, they will have worked with the veterans for three weeks.
Johnson said getting rookies prepared on and off the field remains key.
"Being around all the new guys, showing them how it's done, showing how we run to the ball, and how we represent the Colts, it's been good," Johnson said. "We're having a good time."
Caldwell said this week he liked what he had seen from the rookies thus far, a sentiment shared by veterans.
"I don't think I saw one mistake out there by the rookies," second-year wide receiver Austin Collie said this week, adding, "I definitely feel for them. Their heads are definitely spinning. They're nervous and they're not quite sure what they're doing, but there's a lot of talent in our rookie class."
On Saturday, the rookies will perform in front of Colts fans at Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time on a day that Caldwell said is important for the work to get done on the field, but for other reasons, too.
"I think it's certainly going to be a great setting to give the fans an opportunity to see the team function in a practice-like setting," Caldwell said. "Oftentimes, they can't come to training camp that is open (to fans). Obviously, during this time of year, we do not have open practices, so it is unique to have an opportunity to see them. It will give some of our young fans, who have not had an opportunity to make it at other times of the year, make it, or for those that can't travel to where we have training camp, (the practice Saturday) is right here in the city.
"I think it does create an opportunity where a lot of folks in the community can take part in the activities."