Reid's Leadership a Reason for Special Teams Improvement, Dungy Says
INDIANAPOLIS – For Darrell Reid, it wasn't a big deal, what he did.
He said it was more just a matter of pride – that, and doing his job, really.
Mostly, the Colts' fourth-year defensive tackle said this week, what he did early this season was about not having the Colts' kickoff coverage unit – a unit he felt a huge part of – be a weakness anymore.
As Reid saw it, he'd been through that already.
And this year, he wanted it to stop.
"It's imant to this team," Reid said this week as the Colts (8-4) prepared to play the Cincinnati Bengals (1-10-1) at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Sunday at 1 p.m. "There have been past times where the special teams have been the downfall of this team.
"I just said to myself coming into this season, 'I don't want this to be the Achilles Heel of this team, for that to be an issue all year and every time we kick the ball everybody being scared of what's going to happen.' "
Reid, who signed with the Colts as a rookie free agent in 2005, in four seasons has emerged as a seasoned veteran, especially in terms of special teams experience. He has been one of the team's top special teams tacklers each of the last two seasons, in the process earning a reputation for memorable, momentum-changing hits on kickoff coverage.
In December of last season, he was named the AFC's Special Teams Player of the Week after a game in which he delivered one of the team's biggest hits of the season.
Early this season, teammates said Reid put that special-teams credibility to use.
Along with two other four-year veterans who played extensively on kickoff coverage – outside linebacker Tyjuan Hagler and safety Matt Giordano – Reid began calling extra meetings each week for the unit.
"Darrell and I have been here for four years now, and with those four years of experience, we understand how valuable special teams are," Giordano said.
The meetings last for about 10 or 15 minutes, but in those minutes, Giordano and Reid said much is accomplished. Still, Giordano said with a smile this week that there was one small problem with the meeting plan:
The only time, really, to have extra meetings was on Friday afternoon after practice, a time when players are typically done with their work day in the early afternoon.
"Darrell brought it up and he asked a few of us," Giordano said. "It is on Friday, so some people want to get out of here and go home, because it's that half day, but you know what? I really feel like those 10-to-15 minutes go a long way, especially on game day. Everyone kind of tightens the screws right before the game. We see what we have to do and we see what kind of returner the returner is.
"It gets us that much more ready for the game on Sunday."
Not that Reid said everyone was keen to work extra. Not immediately, anyway.
"When we first started, all the guys didn't come, but now all the guys come," Reid said with a smile. "We knock it out fast. It's only 10 or 15 minutes. We changed the system a little bit. We tried to set a time and now we go right after practice, knock it out and get it done. . . .
"It's a credit to those guys . . . now they see the value in the meeting. It's turning over into consistency on the field. It's a credit to the guys. They're the ones who have to show up. It's not mandatory or anything."
The Colts, after ranking 20th in the NFL last season – when opponents averaged starting on their 29-yard line when Indianapolis kicked off – are ninth in the category this season. Opponents have averaged starting on their own 25.6-yard line.
"Myself, Matt Giordano, Tyjuan Hagler – we're kind of the older guys on coverage units," Reid said. "With how well we do in the draft and bringing in undrafted free agents, every year we have so many young guys. Even though our core is a lot of veterans, there are so many young guys and they make up the core of special teams.
"When you come in, you have a lot of young guys on special teams and they really don't know. When you're playing against experienced special teams, they (the younger players) aren't going to be as knowledgeable, because they haven't been through those situations.
"I just think watching a little extra film, and having a few extra meetings and getting on the same page, has helped us be a little more consistent."
Reid said too often last season that inconsistency led to situations that put the Colts in difficult situations: a kickoff return for a touchdown against San Diego last season; a long, field-position-changing return by the New England Patriots a week before.
"I just wanted us to go out there, do what we do, and help our team with field position," Reid said.
And while that focus has helped the special teams, Giordano and Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy each said it also speaks volumes about the person who originally thought of asking teammates to stay a few extra minutes on what is normally a half day.
"He does play defense, and he has a big role on defense, too," Giordano said. "But special teams aren't for the guys who don't play defense. It's for those guys who also play defense, who also play offense. It just shows the young guys, 'Oh, I can play offense and special teams. I can play both.'''
Said Dungy, "We've had some guys here in the past who have had that special teams experience. You sometimes get turnover in that area. I think since Rocky Boiman left, and some of the other guys, Darrell has taken that leadership role. He's kind of organized some different meetings and film study, and he has been a lot more vocal in the special teams meeting. He's doing a good job for us.
"He was always a guy who was energetic and loved to play the game. He had some things he had to kind of fight his way through when he first got here, but he has matured a lot and he loves his role. He's doing a good job at it."