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. S**ubmit your question here**. Here are responses to some of the questions received recently. We thank you for your interest in the Colts.
DAVID M. (from Delaware) I was wondering if the Colts were looking for a solid run-stopping linebacker or perhaps even defensive linemen in free agency? I can't help but to see a resemblance to Wes Welker in Griff Whalen with the way he makes defenders miss under the radar. Do you
A: Even beyond the playoffs, we showed that we do need to stop the run a bit better. We've made strides in two years going from a 4-3 to a 3-4, but you get the feeling we want to do more. It hasn't been said specifically, so that's just a guess. I'm sure we'll get there, and I think there is an urgency to do so, and a pretty big urgency at that. As for Griff, he's really been a worker – weight room, practice, etc. You have to like how he goes about his business, and there are a few guys around the league you see doing the same thing. One is Wes Welker, who you mention. Colts fans can only hope Griff has a healthy percentage of the success Welker has had. Welker has annoyed Colts fans (and me) to no end with what he has done, but you have to admire it. Griff will be Griff, and let's not saddle him with comparisons to Welker at the moment. He's one of our best workers, and I bet he'd take some of Welker's success for himself, too. Thanks for your regular contributions.
PETE P. (from North Carolina) Why would the Colts settle with Trent Richardson as starting RB and let Donald Brown go? What about Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw?**
A: I don't think the word 'settle' comes into it. Trent will be a different player in year two for us. It's something we all are counting on, and I bet Trent expects it from himself. Having Vick Ballard and Trent will be a boost. We haven't let Donald Brown go. While it's true he could be a free agent in March, don't count on anything until the time comes. I know why you're complimentary of Donald, he's a solid person and pro. With the importance we place on the ground game, he might be back. It's a great discussion point (and certainly good for the mailbag).
SEAN J. (from Virginia) I was wondering if there was any chance the Colts will change their strength and conditioning/training this offseason? Seems we have key injuries every season. It just feels to me like it's time for a change. I like what the Eagles did last off season by bringing in Navy Seals for strength and conditioning. Could something like this be an option for the Colts? I have heard the word dynasty thrown quite a bit this year. Taking a look at history, every dynasty has been born off trades. Are the Colts willing to do what it takes to acquire additional draft picks in 2014/15 draft, or, in your opinion, do you think it's best to play it safe? I suppose what I'm asking is are we truly looking to create a monster that could one day become a dynasty, or was that just talk?
A: I would never denigrate another team's conditioning approach, but I can assure you we have one here that is not bettered anywhere in the NFL. This is a violent sport, not a contact one, and while we had a number of players hurt, we also had some outstanding endurance performances over the season by players like Andrew Luck, Anthony Castonzo, T.Y. Hilton and Gosder Cherilus. It's a fact that injuries happen, but it's also a fact here that our players believe in our program. They've bought into the conditioning to the same degree as they have our coaching and every part of the organization's culture. We always examine ourselves to ensure we're at the top of our game in our methods, and we're confident in this area. It's one of the factors why we've won 23 games in the last two years. Each team has its mindset, but we like what we do here. As far as the draft, our mindset is to play smart, not just safe. Ryan Grigson knows the lifeblood of any organization is the draft and cultivating players. He has made a number of trades (16, I believe) since he's been here, and some of his "finds" have come from interesting areas. He and his staff will pull the levers necessary to build the team, and the draft is the main component. The talk of dynasty was not empty chatter. To do it pointlessly would be obvious to a fanbase. I don't think any of our fans could accuse us of false chatter. Excellence is a daily pursuit. This year's pursuit started when we returned home from New England.
MANNY V. (from Fresno, CA) I think it would be awesome if we could pick up Brian Orakpo or Lamar Houston in the off season. The addition of another pass rusher to help out Robert Mathis and Cory Redding would be great. Let's go big and next season we'll be ready.
A: You can never have too much pressure on the quarterback, and I know we were able to generate some beyond Robert's 19.5 sacks. Among our desires to be more consistent as a team is help in this area. While you're not constrained from mentioning specific names, I'll have to refrain, but we all want to see progress across the board in all three phases that will help us continue to battle like we have. We've covered some ground in the 3-4 in the last two years, but there is more work to be done.
BYRON V. (from Florida) What is the status of Ahmad Bradshaw? Does it look like he will be back next year or not?**
A: Ahmad is progressing well with his rehabilitation and while I haven't seen him in about a month, he said to reporters at that time he was coming along well and wouldn't mind trying to keep playing. It was a one-year deal we signed him to, so in addition to the final stages of recovery from neck fusion surgery that would have to be addressed. The team has been vocal about its desire to run and run well. If those plans are to include him remains to be seen. Like situations on a lot of fronts, there are not concrete answers, and this is all I have. Free agency and the official start of the NFL year are on March 11. Some things could come into clearer focus before then, but many won't.
ISAK H. (from Mexico City, Mexico) I just read Pat McAfee, Vontae Davis and Donald Brown are not expected to come back next year. Do you think they can be renewed before March 11?**
A: All three are possible unrestricted free agents who could sign elsewhere, or they could return here. Nothing is cemented at the moment, and we'll have to see how things play out over the next five-to-six weeks. A number of people like you have asked, and we do have some very recognizable players in this category.
R.B. R. (from California) This is not really a Colts question, but how does the draft really work? We all know the jerseys are not made in a minute. Do they do the real draft earlier or is the draft only the announcement?
A: What you are seeing is the real announcement, nothing is staged earlier. Leagues just have a vast amount of merchandise around to fit the moment. In some cases, teams know who they will take and can prepare themselves, but what you're seeing is general team apparel that fits the moment (ie: a team-related number one jersey or hats). For championship games, merchandise is prepared in advance in the anticipation of an outcome. You see shirts and hats distributed almost immediately at the conclusion of a game (sometimes on the sidelines with time left on the clock), and shirts that don't fit the outcome of the game (ie: I still have an AFC Champion Colts hat from 1996 when we lost to Pittsburgh in the conference title game) are shipped out of the country and donated for people to wear. I hope this explains things for you and thanks for writing.
KEVIN K. (from Fairfield, CA) How does Jim Irsay feel about seeing Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl since the whole purpose of getting rid of Manning and bringing in Andrew Luck was to win the Super Bowl?
A: While I can't speak for Jim, I know he is happy Peyton was able to return to the competitive level he's reached after such a long road back from multiple neck surgeries. If ever an athlete can come back from something like that and continue a career and end it whenever and hopefully on his own terms, you have to appreciate that. As the franchise steward, he has said (as has Peyton) that circumstances conspired to force such a move. As for the Colts, to be able to rebuild to playoff contention so quickly with such a young team shouldn't be overlooked. We had our chances this year to compete, but we aren't there yet. Your letter on this topic is not the only one, and I can assure you all of us with the Colts want the Lombardi Trophy after this one coming to Indianapolis. Until then, seeing Peyton fight the way he is is what sports are all about.