Camp Goes Quicker, Smoother for Second-Year Wide Receiver Gonzalez
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Things are different now for Anthony Gonzalez.
And just how different they are for the Colts' second-year wide receiver can be seen in how he views this week's closing of 2008 Colts Training Camp.
This time last year, Gonzalez said, it seemed as if the Colts would never leave the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, because for Gonzalez – a first-round selection in the 2007 NFL Draft – camp seemed to drag forever. Fast forward a year.
How times change.
The end of camp, he said, has arrived "much quicker," he said. "Much quicker."
"Last year, I remember feeling like we were here for three months," Gonzalez said this week at Colts training camp, which will conclude Friday with a 9:30 a.m. practice.
"Every day was a mental and physical grind last year. This year, it's still obviously difficult. The level of work is still high, but it's a completely different thought process for me."
That's the difference in one year to the next in the NFL.
Specifically, Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said, it's the difference for a quality young player in a rookie season and a second season.
Dungy and Colts President Bill Polian often have said a player typically makes his biggest improvement between his first and second season, and thus far in camp and preseason, Dungy said Gonzalez has shown signs of making such a jump.
"Anthony's doing well," Dungy said. "He learned a lot as a rookie. He's a very confident guy and a very smart guy. I think just knowing the offense better, he's going to have the same progression that (Colts third-year running back) Joseph Addai had (last season).
"He (Gonzalez) had a good year (last season), but it will be so much smoother and easier for him this year I think his production level is really going to pick up."
Not that he was anything close to unproductive last season.
Gonzalez, who played collegiately at Ohio State, played in 13 games last season, starting nine, with all but one of the starts coming in place of eight-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Marvin Harrison, who missed 11 games last season with a knee injury.
For Gonzalez, that meant playing much of the season outside in place of Harrison and just part of the season in the slot – the position he played in college and the one for which he originally was drafted.
He finished the season with 37 receptions for 576 yards and three touchdowns, catching 22 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns in his final five regular-season games.
When Harrison returned in the team's playoff loss to San Diego, Gonzalez played as the third receiver, catching four passes for 79 yards and a 55-yard touchdown.
And while Dungy said he expects Gonzalez's production to increase, Gonzalez said he doesn't view success or failure in statistical terms.
"I don't set production goals," Gonzalez said. "I have different goals. They're boring goals. I've never been a numbers guy, so I don't look at stats, because it's pointless. If you're a receiver, there are so many things that have to take place for you to get numbers on top of you doing your job."
Gonzalez said despite his production as a rookie, it wasn't until a late-season game against Oakland – a game in which he caught the game-winning touchdown pass – that he felt he belonged as a valued member of the roster.
"The Oakland game was when I stopped feeling like a rookie," Gonzalez said. "I remember feeling in the Oakland game . . maybe not that I wasn't a rookie anymore, but I remember feeling like I was finally a part of the team as opposed to some slappy that they throw out there."
If he got that feeling in Oakland last season, he became more secure in it in training camp. Even if it doesn't feel as if it's lasting particularly long.
"The thought process is different," he said. "It's certainly not a relaxed mindset or an overly comfortable mindset. I would say it's more focused on details as opposed to big-picture things. The bigger picture, I have. Now, it's just hammering the details.
"It just helps with understanding, knowing people and knowing your way around a little bit. You don't have to worry necessarily as much about what the play is. You can worry about how to get open. Hopefully, it translates in a positive way, but you never really know until the bullets are real, or whatever they say. I guess we'll find out."