WESTFIELD, Ind. — Chris Ballard loves training camp.
He loves the "back-to-school" feeling, he loves the camaraderie a team begins to build, he loves seeing guys battle for roster spots, he loves the ability to connect with the fans — he loves it all.
So one can understand why Ballard was champing at the bit over the last week or so to transition over to Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind., and get to work.
That process accelerated Wednesday, when the Colts' players reported to Grand Park for camp move-in day, which is typically highlighted by a conditioning test and plenty of meetings to prepare for Thursday's first day of practice.
Ballard also addressed a variety of topics on Wednesday when talking to reporters. What were the top takeaways from his session?
» Injury updates: Ballard said the only player that will start camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list is running back Spencer Ware, who is dealing with a muscle injury. Ware is expected to be out a week or two. Wide receiver Daurice Fountain, who rolled his ankle a couple weeks back and was placed on the Non-Football Injury (NFI) list, has since been placed back on the active roster.
» Working them in: In other injury-related news, the team has a few players that are good to practice, but could be worked in slowly over the first week to 10 days of camp so that they don't risk any sort of setbacks. Those players include quarterback Andrew Luck (calf), wide receiver Deon Cain (knee), safety Clayton Geathers (knee), defensive end Carroll Phillips (undisclosed injury) and tight ends Jack Doyle (hip) and Ross Travis (knee). "When we left here after vet minicamp we had a bunch of guys that really weren't practicing yet," Ballard said. "We're gonna limit some guys. They're gonna practice, but we're gonna work them back in.
» High expectations: The Colts always have high expectations for themselves, and that's no different heading into the 2019 season. But after a 10-6 regular season in 2018 that resulted in the team's first postseason appearance in four years — not to mention the Colts' Wild Card Round victory over the Houston Texans — the outside expectations for Indy heading into the season are sky high, as well. Ballard said as long as the team handles those outside expectations the right way, there's nothing wrong with them. "Look, expectations are good. It's not a bad thing," Ballard said. "But I think, as you visit with our players and watch our players work, look, every year is a new year. It is. I've talked about this a lot. I don't want us to be, and Frank (Reich) doesn't either, a momentum team. We don't want to play off of momentum. I just think that burns you in the long run. We want to continue to work to get better."
» Roster battles: Ballard highlighted a few roster battles in particular he's excited about heading into training camp. While the five starters along the offensive line return from last season, Ballard wants to see who goes out and wins the four or five jobs behind those guys. "We were really happy with Le'Raven Clark this spring," Ballard said. "It's different when you get the pads on. You have to continue the growth, but that competition between him (Antonio) Garcia, Joe Haeg – all those at sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th linemen, those 5 spots, which you know how critically important I think those are."
Ballard mentioned a couple other spots: defensive line and wide receiver. At wideout, he made sure to throw some praise Zach Pascal's way. "I think (it) goes understated how Zach played last year," Ballard said. "I thought Zach Pascal played really well for us. I mean that was a June claim and he comes in and competes his butt off and makes it. Plays unselfish, plays on special teams, plays any spot you ask him to play."
» Cain's comeback: During last year's training camp, Deon Cain looked like he was making strides towards playing a major role as a rookie wide receiver, but then he suffered a torn ACL in the Colts' preseason opener and he had to miss the rest of the season. After undergoing surgery and intense rehab, however, Cain is getting back to 100 percent, and Ballard said he's proud of the way the Clemson product has responded to adversity. "To watch him work over the last year has been … I think Deon will tell you this: he's probably grown and matured more in the last year," Ballard said. "You know, sometimes setbacks can be a positive and he turned it into one, and man, he worked his ass off. We'll limit him here early, but the last two days have been pretty fun to watch."
» Throwing on the pads: While the Colts are going to utilize a conservative approach in the first week of camp when it comes to the workloads of certain players, that doesn't mean practices won't be physical for everyone else. Last year, the team was in full pads for most of its practice sessions, and fans can expect much of the same this time around. "It will be a tough, physical camp," Ballard said. "The first six or seven days – just the studies have shown us that's when the most injuries pop up. We are exhausting ourselves on trying to figure out how to avoid injuries. They happen, it's part of the game and it's going to happen. I know it is. It happens every year. We have to go find answers when they do happen. But no, we will get after it. We will get after it."
» Fan-friendly: Ballard wants to encourage all Colts fans who have the ability to get to Westfield to attend camp practices as much as possible. All practice sessions are free and open to the public (though you do need to head here to get your free general admission tickets each day; click here for the schedule) and the Colts' camp is a great opportunity to get an up-close-and-personal viewing of the work being put in by the team to get ready for the season. "I've talked about this enough, but there is more than a season-ticket holder. There is more than a suite-holder. We've got to reach out to every fan," Ballard said. "Not everybody can afford to go to a game and what a great opportunity. Every fan matters to us. I don't take any of them for granted and never will. I am thankful for the people that come out and support us. We want to get as many people as we can to training camp. This is a great opportunity to see our team."