Many NFL players make the greatest jump in playing ability during their second full season for a multitude of reasons.
For most players during their rookie campaigns, the speed of the game has dramatically quickened compared to college, and combined with a new playbook, which is more often than not much larger than any they have seen before, they find themselves thinking more on the field instead of reacting.
Colts running back Donald Brown said he focused on the mental aspect of his game during the offseason and now, with a full year under his belt, he feels more comfortable in the offense.
"I'm not thinking as much and I know what I'm doing while I am out there," Brown said. "Now it's fun. Now I can go out there and play ball and put my best foot forward every day and keep working hard."
But like many of the Colts' younger players, Brown praises the veterans for their assistance in bringing younger guys up to speed as quickly as possible.
"The veterans that we have are a great, solid group of guys," Brown said. "(They) are always out there working hard, and it's contagious. They make you work hard and they really helped to expedite the learning curve last year. That carried over to this year and really helped me out a lot."
The physical part becomes grueling for the rookies also, particularly towards the end of the season. While many colleges play 12 or 13 games in a season, the Colts played 23 in 2009—four preseason games, 16 regular-season and three post-season.
For second-year defensive back Jerraud Powers, he said the hurdle of those extra contests took a toll on his body at the end of last year. Powers said he learned from that and prepared differently this off-season.
"Late in the season my body sort of broke down a little bit," Powers said. "I really didn't expect for the journey to be that long, but it was. I think I know how I'm going to handle certain situations differently this year when it comes down the stretch.
"Coming in this year, it was more of that college feel type of training of every day and every morning just trying to get yourself ready and in the best shape as possible. You get a lot of great athletes out here in the best shape of their life and you don't want to be lacking in that because guys will move ahead of you."
From a fan's perspective, perhaps the most often overlooked part of football is special teams play. But not with the Colts.
During training camp, the Colts work extremely hard during multiple practices solely on special teams, including Monday afternoon's special teams only practice.
"We have to do it often because it's so important," Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "It's a vital part of our team. It's a critical area that we certainly don't want to undersell. So as often as we can, we go out there and try to take them through all the different scenarios that they're going to have to face in the course of the season. You can't get enough of those."
For rookies looking to make the team, their performance on these different squads - kickoff, kickoff return, punt and punt return units- can make the difference in a game, according to Caldwell.
"Oftentimes, when you're looking at filling out your roster, a lot of it includes guys that are maybe backup roles at their respective positions, but they play a major role on our special teams," he said. "So, I think you find a lot of the young guys are really paying attention to that particular area."
Being invaluable gives younger and older players alike the best chance of making the team, and if they can play two positions, then their chances could increase.
"We've had those situations before where we've been able to adjust to a guy who just returns kicks," Caldwell said. "We've had guys who were not only a performer for us in terms of the kicking game, but also he played a particular position, wide receiver, defensive-back. It's nice if they can double up."
"VARIETY IS NICE"
The Indianapolis Colts practiced in their 'Throwback' helmets from the 1955 season for the first time on Monday morning in preparation for this Sunday's preseason contest against San Francisco.
Following the practice, Colts' wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez commented on what he thought of the new look.
"I love them, actually," Gonzalez said of the all blue helmets with double horseshoes on the back. "I think they are pretty cool looking."
But would Gonzalez like to make a permanent switch to these new uniforms over the old ones?
"I don't know," he said. "Variety is nice, I'll say that. Mix it in every now and then."
Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri agreed.
"They are kind of cool and different," Vinatieri said. "They came out a few years before my time."
And while most of the club is excited to wear the different uniforms, running back Donald Brown is looking forward to playing San Francisco for another reason.
"It's always fun to play against someone in a different color (uniform)," said Brown.