INDIANAPOLIS —The start of the offseason workout program always has that "new" feeling, but that rang especially true for the Indianapolis Colts players as they arrived to the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center on Monday morning.
Not only is the team under new leadership in head coach Frank Reich and his staff — and not only are there a few new faces on the roster — but the Colts' facility itself is undergoing a major modernization. While the construction work will be done by the time the team returns from training camp in August, the players on Monday found temporary digs for their locker room, training room, weight room and cafeteria.
But, of course, the new coach and players, and even the changes to the team facility, are each indicators of a fresh start for the organization, which has missed postseason play the past three seasons since advancing all the way to the AFC Championship Game back in 2014.
So what are some top storylines to follow in the next few weeks and months as the team continues to build momentum towards the regular season?
• Frank Reich's stamp:
Frank Reich knows what championship football looks like, having served as the offensive coordinator of the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.
Now, Reich looks to instill many of those same principles into what the Colts do on a daily basis — with his own personal twist, of course.
Reich delivered his first-ever team address as an NFL head coach on Monday morning, and while we'll have more from that meeting later today, he told Colts.com's Matt Taylor last week it was a moment he had been thinking about for a while.
"Shortly after getting the job, I walk in this building for the first time, and there's a long list of things to do and work to get done, but I think it's natural that one of the first things that goes through your mind — even though it's a couple months away at the time — is, 'What's that first meeting going to be like? What are you going to say that first meeting?'" Reich said. "So you spend a lot of time thinking about it. It's nothing too dramatic, but you want to lay down some solid foundation stuff."
While the first couple weeks of the offseason workout program is strictly limited to strength and conditioning work, perhaps the most important work being done will be in the team's meeting rooms, where the new coaching staff will be able to start the process of installing its various schemes and approaches with the players.
• Andrew Luck's shoulder:
The news from the team out of the NFL's annual meetings a couple weeks back was that quarterback Andrew Luck has introduced smaller footballs into his rehab work, as he continues to work his way back from shoulder surgery.
This is significant, of course, because up until that point, Luck had exclusively been working with weighted balls to get his strength where it needed to be. General manager Chris Ballard said that the switch to a smaller football indicates his strength is now up to par; now Luck is starting to work on his actual throwing mechanics.
Ballard said Luck has been working on a "bottom-up" approach to his rehab work that will allow him to better use his lower body to alleviate potential stress on his throwing shoulder.
"Now we've got his strength really good," Ballard told Colts.com. "It'll be good for him long-term. If you've watched him in the past, it would be wide-base; Andrew was using more upper body in his throws. Now being able to tie that lower body in, we think's it's going to really help him."
We're hoping to hear from Luck later today, but the quarterback will continue checking off the boxes now that he's reported for the team's offseason workout program.
The hope is that eventually Luck will be able to institute a regulation NFL football into his workouts and that he can start throwing to his teammates as the offseason program progresses, but for now, Ballard and Reich said they're going to ease him back into the fold.
"He'll be involved — he wants to be with his teammates, he wants to be involved in the offense," Ballard said. "So he will be involved, and we'll ease him back in."
• Injury watch:
Luck isn't the only player trying to work his way back to the field for the Colts this offseason. Keep an eye on these players and their injuries, as well:
• Safety Malik Hooker: Hooker was putting together a tremendous rookie season last year when he tore his ACL Week 7 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, ending the first-round draft pick's season. Reich said at the NFL annual meetings that "all the reports are positive" on Hooker, and he's "on track and getting ready to go," but look for a more concrete update as the offseason program moves along.
• Defensive lineman Henry Anderson:Anderson was also building a great deal of momentum up front for the Colts' defense last season when he suffered, and then played through, what turned out to be a major larynx (throat) injury during the team's Week 9 victory over the Houston Texans. Anderson, whose rookie season in 2015 ended in Week 9 after tearing his ACL, had 19 tackles (four for a loss), two sacks, seven quarterback hits and a forced fumble last season.
• Running back Robert Turbin:The ever-dependable Turbin suffered a season-ending elbow injury Week 6 against the Titans last year. He returns this offseason hoping to continue competing for a spot on the depth chart, which has seen the departure of three-year starter Frank Gore, who signed a free agent deal with the Miami Dolphins. Turbin is one of a few names to watch at running back, which also includes Marlon Mack, Matt Jones, Christine Michael, Josh Ferguson and George Winn.
• Cornerback Pierre Desir:Desir had risen from the ranks of special teams contributor all the way to being the team's No. 2 cornerback when he suffered a season-ending pectoral injury Week 13 against the Jaguars. He headed into the offseason an unrestricted free agent, but on March 21, he was re-signed by the Colts to be a veteran presence for a young cornerback group. Desir said his rehab work has indicated he'll "be good for training camp," so keep an eye out for related news around that time.
• Guard Jack Mewhort:The Colts placed Mewhort on IR just prior to their Week 6 matchup against the Titans after their starting right guard just couldn't get back to 100 percent with some knee issues that had been persistent since the 2016 season. He also hit this offseason as an unrestricted free agent, but was re-signed by the Colts March 21. Mewhort said he anticipates "being out there with the guys" when the offseason program starts. "Obviously I think we are going to be smart going forward, but I don't see any restrictions as far as offseason stuff. Obviously that may change at some point along the line if someone decides that there is some better option. Like I said, I've been moving around. I'm feeling good, I'm feeling better every day so I don't anticipate missing any time at this point."
• Guard Matt Slauson:Slauson suffered a season-ending biceps tear during the Los Angeles Chargers' Week 7 victory over the Denver Broncos, but that didn't keep the Colts from signing the veteran free agent on March 20. While the early portion of the offseason program is strictly weights and conditioning work, as well as coaches installing the playbook in the meeting rooms, it'll be interesting to see where Slauson fits in, and how he has progressed health-wise, when the team begins work out on the field in a couple weeks.
A behind the scenes look at Colts players arriving for the first day of off season workouts.