INDIANAPOLIS – A busy off-season for the Colts jumped a higher notch on Tuesday as the team went through two practices of a voluntary mini-camp.
Under the watchful eye of new Head Coach Chuck Pagano, approximately 50 players, many of whom have been at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center since early this month participating in conditioning work or rehabilitation, practiced under sunny skies. Doing what coaches love to do the most – coach – Pagano's outlook reflected the nearly-cloudless conditions.
"Obviously the energy's great, the enthusiasm's great," said Pagano. "They've been here for three weeks now, and this is going into week four, (the) voluntary mini-camp. They'll take what they've learned in the classroom and come out here and apply it in an offense versus defense-type setting."
Pagano heads a coaching staff that boasts 17 new faces on the 20-man unit. With a new staff in place, Indianapolis is allowed to have one additional off-season mini-camp. This week's voluntary process includes two more workouts on Wednesday and a final one on Thursday morning.
Pagano is known as an energetic coach, one who shows constant positive emotion. He says his players are sharing that same upbeat feel as on-field work got underway.
"It's been tremendous, they're hungry. They're really hungry," said Pagano. "We call last year an aberration. I think if they could play tomorrow, they'd play tomorrow. I love their enthusiasm. Like I said, their energy has been great, the participation (too).
"I asked Reg (Reggie Wayne), 'When was the last time you participated (in spring practice)?' He said, 'It's been a few years, coach.' I can't ask anything more from these guys right now. They're doing a good job."
With the majority of the squad going through paces that lasted less than an hour in the first session and for two hours in the afternnon, there were a few players who did not participate, including defensive end Dwight Freeney, tight end Brody Eldridge and running back Delone Carter.
"Dwight has been here the whole time. He had something come up. He should be here Thursday, but his participation's been awesome," said Pagano. "Brody went home sick today. (He) came in, went through meetings and had the flu, so he went home sick. Delone has something with a thumb that (the medical staff is) looking at. We held him back."
At the conclusion of the morning practice, General Manager Ryan Grigson announced Indianapolis will choose quarterback Andrew Luck with the first pick in the draft that starts on Thursday evening. Wanting to dispel any remaining speculation on the choice and to help Luck as he attends the proceedings in New York, Grigson made the news public. Pagano looks forward to Luck's addition.
"The intangibles are off the chart. You know the skill set. You've seen the body of work. He's a gym rat. He's a football junkie. He's big, he's strong, he's physical," said Pagano. "He can make every throw out there, and he's a great leader in his own way. … We've got a great one. We've got a great one for years to come. It's another piece of the puzzle we feel really good about, obviously."
As Indianapolis moves to a new era at quarterback and with Pagano entering his first year as head coach, he knows the significance of addressing the position.
"I know this, on any level if you don't have a quarterback, it's really, really hard to win, especially in the National Football League," said Pagano. "I'm going to sleep well tonight knowing we have a quarterback for a long time."
Following the April 26-28 draft, Indianapolis will hold a rookie camp from May 4-6. The mandatory mini-camp involving all veterans will run from June 12-14. The club also will have a series of organized team activities (OTAs) between those camps.
Pagano said Luck will be present for the rookie camp and veteran mini-camp. Those camps will not be affected by his graduation date of June 7. As with all potential new players, there is an anticipation of getting Luck to Indianapolis.
"He's chomping at the bit. We're chomping at the bit," said Pagano. "(Offensive Coordinator) Bruce (Arians) and (Quarterbacks Coach) Clyde (Christensen) and everybody on offense is chomping at the bit to get him here and get him going. His football IQ is off the charts. I don't think it will take very long for him to pick things up and get going."
Also, the NFL has expanded the off-season and preseason roster size to 90 players. The previous limit was 80. Only the 51 highest-paid players count toward the salary cap. The first roster reduction in late August will be to 75 players, with the final cut after the fourth preseason game reducing the rosters to 53 players.