Indianapolis opened training camp practices on Monday morning at Anderson University and the team conducted seven practices through the week where there were a high number of observers.
Because transition rules for the new collective bargaining agreement have been in place, veterans on the active roster such as running back Joseph Addai, defensive back Al Afalava, defensive back Melvin Bullitt, quarterback Nate Davis, offensive guard Kyle DeVan, offensive tackle Ryan Diem, defensive tackle Eric Foster, defensive tackle Antonio Johnson, quarterback Dan Orlovsky, offensive tackle Michael Toudouze and kicker Adam Vinatieri have been unable to work.
During the first week of camp, the Colts have been active participants in the free agent market. Indianapolis signed three defensive players who were former first-round draft picks with other teams, linebacker Ernie Sims, defensive end Jamaal Anderson and defensive tackle Tommie Harris. Sims was the ninth overall selection in the 2006 draft by Detroit. He made 71 starts in 74 outings with the Lions. Anderson was the eighth overall choice by Atlanta in 2007, starting 47 of 60 games in four seasons with the Falcons. Harris was tabbed 14th in the selection process by Chicago in 2004. In earning three Pro Bowl appearances, he opened 90 of 104 career games for the Bears. The trio has combined to start 208 of 238 league games during their career. Anderson, Sims and Harris will shed the role of spectators, too.
A truer sense of the team will be on display on Friday – Blue Friday.
Head coach Jim Caldwell is looking forward to the return of the players who have been unable to go.
"It will be (a nice boost). It increases the numbers (of players practicing)," said Caldwell. "I thought in some cases that it worked out pretty well for some of the younger guys to get an opportunity to get the number of reps they received. I think some of them took advantage of it. Now, that's going to change a bit. We're going to get some seasoned veterans back out at certain positions, therefore their (younger players) numbers are going to be cut down drastically, but it will be a great infusion of enthusiasm. They were chomping at the bit to get out there. It will be fun to get them all together."
The Colts do not have the reputation some teams do in getting involved in the veteran free agency process. When they do act, there is a specific plan.
"You're looking for someone who can help your team at whatever position," said Caldwell. "It's not just necessarily just for depth, but it's also (for) a guy who can come in and have an impact. We're looking for guys who have been around, who have a proven track record and fits within the context of what we do. He has to fit our system from a schematic standpoint, also philosophically as well. We take all those things into account when we're looking for someone to come in from the free agent market."
When asked why the activity this year is greater as opposed to others, Caldwell indicated the team always looks to improve. This year happened to be a little different.
"Every year is different. This is not the first year we have brought in free agents," he said. "We may not have had maybe the number, but we've always had a few guys here and there. It just so happens we have been able to get some guys that we think are going to be able to help us quite a bit, guys with a pretty good amount of experience as well. We're happy to have them. It's going to be a very, very competitive camp overall. I think our guys are learning well. I think we're practicing well. We just have to keep it going…So many things change in terms of when you start hitting with pads and things of that nature. You have to re-evaluate things, sometimes every day."
"(I am) glad to be here. I'm just looking for a fresh start, a fresh opportunity," said Harris. About the opportunity, he said, "what better team to do it with but Peyton Manning, (Dwight) Freeney and (Robert) Mathis, guys who like to rush. I just look forward to coming out here and having another opportunity to play this game. I look forward to contributing on the Colts and helping this team."
When asked what he can contribute, Harris added, "I can show you better than I can tell you. I feel good. Don't judge me on the first day. We had a lockout and the camp legs are going to set in."
Harris is familiar with the club's style of play having been a part of the system in Chicago under head coach Lovie Smith, who once coached under former Colts head coach Tony Dungy when Dungy was at Tampa Bay. Harris likes the Colts' group of linemen.
"A great group. I knew I wanted to come to a place where guys get up field, they rush. This is just a change of uniform (for me from Chicago)," said Harris. "Also being under Coach Caldwell, being under that same Dungy umbrella, having the same coaching style as Lovie, all I really feel like I've done is change uniform. I thank God I am here in this situation."
As for Harris, Caldwell knows the tackle's talents.
"He's familiar with our system. He's been in our system (and) understands how it operates," said Caldwell. "He's a guy that can give you a little juice. We're excited about having the opportunity to throw him out there on the field…He's a guy who has quickness and power. I don't think there's any question about it, he's going to help us.
"He's been in it (the system). The system is similar to what he's been accustomed to with Chicago, probably some similar terminology. In terms of the position he plays, we have that particular position. (We) basically run it and operate the exact, same way, so that makes him a good fit. You look for guys with explosion, power and quickness. He has those things. We're excited about him."