LINEBACKER AND TEAM CAPTAIN READY TO ROLL
INDIANAPOLIS – Linebacker Gary Brackett walked into the locker room at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center recently and surveyed the scene.
He was entering very familiar surroundings in getting ready for his ninth training camp, but some of the people were not so familiar.
A few younger faces were sprinkled among the veterans. While it was good to see players in the Colts locker room, Brackett noticed a different introduction style from the younger crowd.
"It is good to see (guys around)," said Brackett. "I don't like the, 'Mr. Brackett's.' I feel myself as still young enough to be called by my first name. Some of the rookies come in and want to show you respect. We've got to show those guys that they're ready to help us win this thing. That's what it's all about. We need those guys from day one. We're going to echo that to those guys, 'Hey, we're all on the same team. We're all doing this thing for one goal.' "
Once he eased past the formalities, Brackett was back home again.
"(It's) great to be back, just making my rounds, saying hello to everyone, telling them we're ready to go back to work," he said.
At one point, Brackett was one of those new faces. He made the club as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2003. Brackett was a 16-game substitute as a linebacker and special teamer. Rob Morris was bookended by Marcus Washington and David Thornton as the starting linebackers that year, so Brackett amassed 25 special teams stops as one of the fresh-faced players.
Brackett started one game the next year and had 18 specialty stops, then he became the man in the middle for the club in 2005, starting 16 games. It is the role the Rutgers product has held since.
Brackett always has been a studious worker, diligent in his approach to every part of the game. The respect he holds in the locker room is just one reason he has been a team captain since 2006.
In addition to being a team captain, Brackett was involved on the periphery of the lockout talks this past off-season. He feels the result helped all involved.
"What guys don't always realize is where we came from and where we are now," he said. "We've made a ton of strides, a lot of things that will be great for this game. It's going to grow the game for both parties. I think it's a good deal. I think, truthfully, it wouldn't have been done without Jeff Saturday. This guy took a lot of time away from his family (and was) spent in negotiations, getting what's fair for the players. Likewise, the owner's got a fair deal. I'm excited about it."
Brackett always has been an enthusiastic presence for the Colts. With a heart that packs the compassion and spirit of force of his punch, Colts fans long have held Brackett among the most favorite of all players. He has totaled 748 career tackles while starting 85 of his 115 career regular-season games. He has an additional 11 post-season starts, and could pass the century mark for total career starts in 2011.
Brackett has three career touchdowns, the biggest being a 68t fumble return at Houston in 2008 that helped the team overcome a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit. The enthusiasm that play brought to his Colts teammates is the enthusiasm Brackett brings to the locker room every day. Thus, it is not surprise that after Brackett shrugged off the 'misters' that he framed his anticipation for the 2001 training camp that opens on Sunday at Anderson University.
"First of all, they (the entire university staff and the city of Anderson) did a great job last year hosting us there," he said. "I'm excited to go back from that standpoint. As a team, we want to hit the ground running. A lot of guys spent the whole off-season training, getting prepared. I think we're going to have an advantage from that source, that we have a lot of veteran leaders who are going to go out there and lead the way for these young guys."
Brackett has morphed from one of those young guys into one of the veterans helping lead the way. It is the way the veterans impart assistance to newcomers, something Brackett has helped do for the eight previous seasons.