Condren Says He Knows from Experience What to Expect Next Season
INDIANAPOLIS – Brannon Condren has been here before.
And because he has, the Colts' second-year safety has more confidence this year than he did this time last year.
A lot more.
Condren, a fourth-round selection by the Colts in the 2007 NFL Draft, spent his rookie season playing extensively on special teams and sparingly on defense. He said he was confused at times during that season, and that entering his second season, he feels more sure of himself defensively.
Condren said the scenario didn't surprise him, and in fact, he expected it.
And as a result, he has high hopes entering next season.
"Last year I was lost," Condren said during the Colts' recent organized team activities, 14 days of onfield work that concluded last week at the team's training facility.
"This year, I have a better understanding of the defense. Last year, I was thinking way too much and I'd mess up a lot because I'd be confused. This year, so far, I'm getting better at that.
"Hopefully, I'll just keep getting better, which I should, so I should be all right."
Condren, who played collegiately at Troy, played eight games as a rookie, registering two tackles and a pass defensed. He also had four special teams tackles.
Mostly, Condren said what he did as a rookie was learn.
He said he learned there was a huge difference between the NFL and college.
He said he learned first-hand the NFL season is much longer than college.
And most imantly, he said he learned that the most important thing he must do entering his second season is just that.
"For me, it's all about the learning part," Condren said. "The physical, I've got that. Now, it's learning. Last year, learning the defense, I was pretty much lost out there. I knew it a little bit. This year, I'm just getting it a lot better. I feel I'm moving around out there a lot better, because I know exactly what I'm supposed to be doing now.
"I'm not thinking too much out there. That's just going to get better as time goes on, too."
Condren, entering his second season, is part of a deep group of safeties for the Colts, a unit that includes not only two Pro Bowl selections – 2007 NFL Defensive Player-of-the-Year Bob Sanders and third-year veteran Antoine Bethea – but fourth-year veteran Matt Giordano and second-year veteran Melvin Bullitt.
It's a talented group, one that was durable last season, with the foursome combining to play in 55 of a possible 64 games.
It's also a group with which Condren said he wants to prove he belongs next season.
"That's where they set the depth chart, is in training camp," Condren said. "I want to go out and show I belong up there high in the depth chart. Last year, I did a week of training camp, then I pulled my groin and was out for the rest of it, pretty much.
"This year, my goal is to stay healthy all the way through, then go through the whole training camp, do my best, and see what happens."
Condren said the difficulties he experienced in camp continued at times during the season. He said he had trouble at times maintaining what he believed was his proper playing weight, and – as is the case with many rookies – he said he struggled at times with the marathon nature of an NFL season.
"It's like two college seasons in one," he said. "I was talking to buddies back in college. They're like, 'Yeah, we're finishing up the season.' I'm like, 'Man, we're halfway through the season.' It's a toll on your body. I lost like 10-to-12 pounds during the season. If you look at pictures of me early in the year and at the end of the year, I look like a totally different person. It's tiring, man – very long, longer than I thought it was.
"I know what to expect now. Last year, I didn't."
That's a learning process that many NFL players share. Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy and Club President Bill Polian often have said the biggest improvement players make is from their first season to their second, and Condren said he expects that will be true for him.
He said he went through a similar experience in college, when he played sparingly early in his career before developing into an NFL prospect.
"When I first got there, I was lost learning the defense," Condren said. "After I went out there and did it for a year or two, I was flying around making plays. After I did it for a year or two, I was on it. I knew it like the back of my hand. I wasn't thinking. I was just reacting. Last year was too much thinking and less reacting.
"I figured that's how it was going to be here. I've just got to keep getting better on that part and I'll be fine.
In a player's first year, "You're lost," he added. "You don't know what to expect. You don't know what's going on half of the time. The second year, coming in, you know everything. You do know what to expect. You're out there and you're more aware of everything."
And as a result, he said he has high hopes entering this season.
"I played in three games at safety and special teams," Condren said. "I already know I can play up here. I feel I'm a good enough athlete I can compete with anybody. I just know that I can. This training camp and preseason is going to be a lot different. Last year, I'll say it again: 'I was lost.' This year, I'm getting it and picking it up a lot better.
"I know I should make a big improvement. I'm just looking forward to getting out there and doing it."
Fifth NFL season
Acquired: Second Round, 2004
The Colts' first selection in the 2004 NFL Draft, Sanders has developed into one of the NFL's top players and was named the Defensive Player of the Year by nearly every major publication/service this past season. . . . He was named to the Pro Bowl as a starter for a second time in three seasons this past season and also was named first-team Associated Press All-Pro. . . . He was the first Colts player named the AP's Defensive Player of the Year. . . .He finished the season with 132 tackles, including 74 solos, 3.5 sacks, two interceptions and six passes defensed, all of which were career-highs. . . . He led the team in tackles and tied for second on the team in sacks. . . . He also was named to Sports Illustrated NFL All-Pro Team, PFW/PFWA All-NFL Team, PFW/PFWA All-AFC Team, and was PFW/PFWA NFL Defensive Most Valuable Player, as well as Kansas City Committee of 101 AFC Defensive Player-of-the-Year.
Third NFL season
Acquired: Sixth Round, 2006
A second-year veteran, he started 13 games at free safety and was selected to his first career Pro Bowl. . . . He was part of NFL's second-ranked pass defense that allowed only 172.8 yards per game and also had 95 tackles, including 47 solos and three passes defensed. . . . He also tied for team lead with four interceptions.
Fourth NFL season
Acquired: Fourth Round, 2005
He started four of 12 games at safety, three at free safety and one at strong safety. . . . He was a reserve and special teams player in other games. . . . He finished the season with 21 tackles, including 13 solos, with 2 interceptions for 89 yards and a touchdown and one pas