Manning Happy to be on Practice Field at Training Camp
TERRE HAUTE – Not too many NFL players have been looking forward to the start of training camp like Peyton Manning.
After missing all of last season's training camp, the Colts quarterback made his long-awaited return to the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology practice field Monday for the team's first practice. Fans packed the stands for a chance to watch No. 18 zip passes to receivers and work with running backs.
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said he was pleased to have nearly his entire team on the field for the opening of camp, especially his starting quarterback.
"He does a great job of raising the level of expectations with everybody that practices," Caldwell said. "But he also makes everybody better around him. It's great that he's here. He does a great job of leading and he does a great job of setting an example for the younger players."
Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne echoed Caldwell's sentiments and said he could feel a difference in the camp's intensity this year with Manning around.
"He's enthused, he's fired up," Wayne said. "I talked to him on the way to camp, he hit me up on the phone and you could tell in his voice he was…ready to go. I don't think he cared too much for sitting in his bedroom last year when we were out here practicing, so it's always good to see him out there getting a lot more work."
Manning admitted he was so excited to be back on the field that he "felt like a rookie again."
"This is certainly the way I prefer it," he added. "Last year was not much fun at all. It felt good to be back out here."
Like his teammates, Manning is getting used to some of the new voices on the coaching staff, as well as a few new targets in the team's receiving corps.
"But that is part of what training camp is for," Manning said. "And I think that the more practices we have the more everybody will settle in. Like Coach Caldwell said last night, we have no time to look back. We have to act in the now and go with who's here."
The biggest competition amongst "who's here" is for the team's third wide receiver spot. With Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez being the team's veteran receivers, Manning said he expects the friendly wide receiver battle to run through the team's preseason schedule.
"It's been good competition so far this offseason and all those guys, Pierre (Garcon), Roy (Hall), Austin (Collie) and Taj (Smith) made a few plays today. I think that's kind of where it is headed," Manning said.
Former head coach Tony Dungy is gone, but Manning said the first day of camp did not feel too different under Coach Caldwell, his former position coach.
"There is no question that (Caldwell) is going to coach from Coach Dungy's book in a lot of ways," Manning said.
But that does not mean everything is the same.
"He has more of a leadership role and he's having to speak a lot more in front of the team," Manning said of Caldwell. "I'm getting to know him and his mannerisms. I think we'll learn when he's not happy and when he's pleased. I think that just takes time."
As does preparing a team for an NFL season. But with one practice in training camp down, and many more to go, Manning and the Colts are looking forward to the next three weeks.
"I was glad to be back out on the field today," Manning said. "And hopefully staying on the field the entire training camp."