INDIANAPOLIS – Readers of Colts.com may submit questions during the week and have a chance to have them answered during the middle of each week. Submit your question here.
Here are responses to some of the questions received recently. We thank you for your interest in the Colts.
JACK D. (from undisclosed) When will the 2013 NFL/Colts home schedule be announced?
A: By now, you know we play Houston, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Denver, Oakland, St. Louis, Seattle and Miami at home this season. I would look for the schedule to be released in the first few days of April.
JOCK M. (from Williamsburg, VA) I've been a Colt fan since (John) Unitas was QB. I would love to go to the Colts training camp this year. Any idea of the dates it will be held?
A: We have not announced the dates nor confirmed the location yet, so please check back with the website and hopefully we have something in the next few weeks. Once everything is in place, we will publish the practice times and hope to see you there. Training camps are the best ways to see the team take shape and possibly have interaction with players and coaches. Thanks for your long-time support. We hope to add to your memories.
ROBIN L. (from Aix-en-Provence, France) Hi Mr. Kelley, I'm big-time Colts fan from across the ocean, love the inside view you're giving and the honest answers. My question would be concerning our guards. I really like the addition of Donald Thomas, but I'm really concerned about the others. Should we draft one in the first round, even if Cooper and Warmack get picked before we have a chance to do so? If so, should we trade up or does the draft give a good depth at the position?
A: Thank you for the feedback and the long-distanced support. What a beautiful area from which you write. We are very high on Donald Thomas and think he can help upgrade the depth of the unit. I wouldn't discount some of the guys we have already. It could be that Cooper and Warmack are gone by the 24th pick. You may see guards going high in this draft, compared to previous years. I would think if we were targeting that position, we would be fine where we are in the first round. Ryan Grigson is a former lineman himself. I think you can trust his feel and knowledge to do what it takes to get that unit where he wants it.
ROBERT K. (from Kentucky) Can we please get some help in the TE department? I know (Dwayne) Allen is good, but we need someone to fill in (Dallas) Clark's shoes. Not too impressed with (Coby) Fleener.
A: I think we'll be fine like we are, but I appreciate your concern for the team's welfare. I wouldn't form a harsh judgment of Coby yet. He would tell you he wants contribute a bit more in his second year, and I think you will see that from him. I think he stands to flourish tremendously this year in a new offense, so let's allow some time for him. Dwayne had a tremendous year as a rookie, and both he and Coby should play big roles this season. Wes Saunders is an interesting talent, and Dominique Jones will have another spring and camp with us, too. I'm not saying there can't be an addition, but give Coby another look. We did have some great times with Dallas Clark, one of the most popular Colts ever. We're in a new era, and I bet these two picks can carry on a pretty solid TE heritage we have had also with guys like Marcus Pollard and Ken Dilger.
PATRICK K. (from Danbury, NC) (Jim) Irsay has been tweeted about the Colts acquiring a receiver. Do you think that will come through free agency or the draft?
A: Jim Irsay has stated we want another receiver. Attempts made so far have not yielded the result. Not every effort achieves the outcome, but the attempts are genuine. The most recent effort was with Darrius Heyward-Bey, who visited us this week. I don't know any other of the players we have targeted. The interest could extend to the draft. There appear to be some talented players that should be around when we pick. We will need to replace Donnie Avery. LaVon Brazill needs to take an upward trend. Griff Whalen has a pretty good grounding in the system and will have a chance to make an impression. What you have to like if you're a fan is the aggressive approach we've taken at a number of positions. This is the heaviest free agent shopping the team ever has had. In the past two weeks, the club has added nine free agents at a price tag that has been estimated around $140. Additionally the retention of key free agents underscores the push to win is now, not that that is different from past seasons.
LEVI F. (from Grand Ridge, FL) I like the talent we have at the RB position. I say don't fix what ain't broke, but I'm curious and I'm sure other people are too, who will be our starting RB this season? Will it be (Delone) Carter? In my opinion, he's a good, solid power back, or will it be the veteran Donald Brown or Vick Ballard? I think any of (them) will be good in the backfield.
A: I join you in thinking we are in relatively good shape here. I think the guys you have listed above are good fits for us, and the key is health. Delone has had a bit of an issue, but he is entering his prime years. Donald is a hard worker who can provide a burst, and we all noticed what Vick did in his first year. He has good tread on his tires. We do favor a power running game with the new offense. If these guys stay healthy, they should have a good shot to contribute.
BOBBY R. (from Peru, IN) I'm wondering if a running back is on the list of priorities for the off season? (Vick) Ballard is the man and I believe he has earned the number one spot, but I think a second back to complement him is needed. Is there a guy in the draft or free agency that the Colts could be considering?
A: Please see above. Adding to the mix would fit into our nature of creating competition at all positions. It could happen, but I like where we are.
STEPHEN W. (from Ruskin, FL) It's clear that the Colts have made strides to become better on defense through free agency. My question is, are these new additions just players capable of making an impact, or do they fit the defensive scheme of Coach Pagano or both?
A: We would not bring in players or commit money or a roster spot if the players were not capable of both. Each of the 53 players on the active roster is there for a reason. We go to great lengths to attract the players with the specific skill set, aptitude and character to compete.
TOM L. (from Baltimore, MD) I've been a Colt fan all my life, for over 50 years and the future for the Colts has NEVER looked brighter than going into this season. Finally, we will have a top 10 defense with our top ten offense. The Colts need a veteran WR who can catch and then draft a decent RB. Donnie Avery and T.Y. Hilton both had far too many drops, but hopefully Hilton will improve and good riddance to Avery. My question is about coaching. Losing Bruce Arians scares me as this does not help Andrew Luck's development. Our new offensive coordinator is unproven, so who will do the play-calling? I'm hoping we won't lose a season or more for our coordinator to learn the ropes of good play-calling. Who will call the offensive plays? Will it be Luck? Thanks.
A: Tom, sounds like you have invested a great deal of emotion into us for a long time, and we are excited about 2013. First of all, don't be so harsh on Donnie. He made a number of plays for us last year. We will see a maturation in T.Y., though he was pretty good in his approach (and certainly with his production) last year. I assure you, you will have no qualms about Pep Hamilton. True, he hasn't been an NFL coordinator, but he is ready. His work at Stanford speaks for itself, and he has had outstanding influences that complement his talents. You refer to us as a top 10 offense. I don't think you're off at all. I think Pep will fit us tremendously well, and Andrew will continue to grow.
JAY E. (from Calgary, Canada) Hello! I am a huge fan of the Colts and the NFL in general. That being said, I am confused at some of the recent spending. We were well below the cap but seem to be paying guys more money than is comparable with other teams, i.e. Matt Hasselbeck. Do we plan on sitting close to the cap, or will there be some cuts based on financial situations closer to the season?
A: At the start of the league year recently, teams had to conform to the salary cap. Everything done has fit within the guidelines. There will be a reserve left over to sign rookies and to allot for injuries, but we are where we need to be. Every team has specialists to keep the financial house in order, and Ryan Grigson has a terrific staff here. I hope that eases your concerns.
RAUL H. (from El Paso, TX) I've been a Colts fan all my life and I wanted are the Colts interested in Manti Te'o, and what receiver which they call a "whopper" are the Colts trying to get?
A: I am not in the position to know if we are interested in specific players like Manti Te'o. I cannot help you on that one. As for the receiver, who we wanted has not worked out as of yet. I know the efforts were real, or we would not have claimed as such. A lot of people in addition to you have asked who it was.
DAVID H. (from Sebring, FL) I like that the Colts picked up Matt Hasselbeck, but I can't see wasting a roster spot on him. His level of play has dropped off over the last two years. Will they be using him to teach Andrew Luck? Can the team put him as the trainer-teacher? There are a lot of better backup QBs out there. Chandler Harnish is a much better backup.
A: Matt is a great addition to our roster. He has been productive throughout his career and has been in some good organizations and systems. We are dedicated to winning, and his addition is further proof of it. We all saw how the 2011 season was affected when Peyton Manning was out and we used three different QBs to get through the season. In a perfect world, Andrew Luck takes every snap like last year. Should there be an interruption to that plan, we have bolstered ourselves. Matt is heady and talented, and our people like how he fits the system. Chandler is developing and could have a bright future. You state weekly concerns about the roster, but I think we have done what we need to do here.
MIKE T. (from Ossipee, NH) Been a long-time Colts fan and being from New England, I get a lot of heat from Pats fans. Why don't we ever, ever go after a big fish in a free agent pool? We need another receiver, yet we get a backup quarterback. Why doesn't this team ever go after a big-name? It seems to me we are losing big names with Peyton Manning and Pierre Garcon last year and Dwight Freeney this year. It upsets me to see us lose more than we gain off the free agent market. Thanks for taking my question.
A: You must take a little lip for your loyalty to us while living in your area, but we hope your loyalty is rewarded. It's true we have lost a number of players through the years in free agency, but we also retained a number of key guys, too. Don't lose sight of that when you see the departures that will happen in this business. A lot of times organizations don't get credit for the money it spends to retain its players. Our approach has produced a regular-season record of 151-73 and 12 playoff berths since 1999, the most number of playoff berths in the league and the second-highest victory total. From time-to-time, we've added big names, but that never has been a consistent part of our M.O. Under Bill Polian's regime, we had a core of players in place and rarely ventured deeply into the free agent waters. We made a splash with Adam Vinatieri but as I said before, there was a "big-name" player we signed a year or so prior to Vinatieri's arrival who cost more in millions than the number of games in which that player appeared. Those are the hazards of the free agency business. When it bites, it bites harshly. You want to make consistent strikes in free agency when the proper fit comes along. You also want to reward the players who build your program. It is a balancing act we've done well. I don't say you are wrong in how you feel. I just wanted to point out we've done well with our process.
ENRIQUE H. (from Bakersfield, CA) I just wanted to bring this up, but since Dwight Freeney didn't play (OLB) good this season, how come the Colts didn't re-sign him and move him back to defensive end where he would line up opposite of Cory Redding. That would be a good pair.
A: Dwight probably took a little bit of heat for his numbers last year because the statistics didn't indicate what he contributed. That said, the organization determined it was time to move in a different direction. That's hard to do with a player who has done so much and who was a huge component in our accomplishments. Dwight, I hope, has a couple of more very productive seasons in him. We like what we've done in free agency, and I think fans will like where we are headed.
GIOVANNI G. (from Sao Paulo, Brazil) Hey Craig, I'm a longtime horseshoe fan from Brazil and I'm concerned about the pass-rushing skills of our defense for 2013. Of course we also need WRs but according to Mr. Irsay, that's being taken care of. So how about DEs or OLBs? Are there plans for any additions soon, or will we see that need being addressed only in the draft?
A: Thanks for your long-distanced support, too. It's great to have you on board from so far away. We have added Aubrayo Franklin and Ricky Jean-Francois in free agency along the line and Erik Walden and Lawrence Sidbury to the linebacking group, and we think they will fit well with the talent on hand. Jerry Hughes will have a chance to show what he can contribute with the departure of Dwight Freeney. Justin Hickman also will get a shot. I would think any other additions would come in the draft. We want healthy competition at every position, and Ryan Grigson and Coach Pagano are creating that. Certainly how we fill the role Dwight played will be a prominent storyline in the spring and summer.
CHRIS C. (from New Castle, IN) Love the direction this off season is going and that Coach Pagano, plus the addition of Pep Hamilton from Stanford, but I can't help but wonder if perhaps we need to find an outside linebacker to replace Dwight Freeney and during the draft maybe consider Manti Te'o for the middle linebacker, what are your thoughts?
A: Chris, we've had questions like yours in the mailbag, so please see. I am not privy to our draft plans, and shouldn't be. Where Te'o goes will be interesting viewing. We have added talents in free agency. Robert Mathis remains a big presence, and the unit should benefit from a second year in Coach Pagano's system. Freeney's departure leaves big shoes to fill, and someone should emerge.
ALEX B. (from Houston, TX) My question is do we see a different Andrew Luck with his new offensive coordinator, or can we expect better than last year? I hope we can move forward and compete with the high teams.
A: We did compete with high teams last year at 11-5 and a Wild Card spot. Doing it consecutively and consistently is the goal. Andrew hit quite a few rookie marks last year, and we had one of the most vertical attacks in the league. We weren't reckless, but we were aggressive. I think we all look for an offense that will be structured a bit differently this year – higher percentage passes, hopefully yards after the catch. We aren't throttling down and will take calculated shots mixed with the run. Pep Hamilton has a great feel for Andrew and some of our personnel, and it will be even better once OTAs and training camp ensues. Everyone expects a fun transition, and I don't think you will have any worries.
TIM G. (from Buffalo, NY) What are the chances that the Colts trade out of the first round to a team needing a quarterback (Buffalo, maybe) and picking up early second- and third-round picks?
A: Anything is possible, but it takes two to tango. We're not shy about doing what we feel is best to improve our team. It seems the Bills are interested at that playing position. We fall into a range in the first round (24th) where they could think about it.