INDIANAPOLIS – The "friendly banter" that's been missing from the Colts practice field was heard loud and clear this week.
Phase III of the Colts offseason program has kicked off and that means offense vs. defense sessions are allowed for the first time since early January.
Per the CBA,* teams may conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity, or "OTAs". No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are permitted*.
The Colts OTAs kicked off on Tuesday with four days of work before the calendar turns to June and the offseason program continues until minicamp runs from June 17-19.
Here are a few takeaways from Thursday's OTA practice that was open to the media:
Plenty Of Wide Receiver Reps
With Reggie Wayne still sidelined, T.Y. Hilton resting and Donte Moncrief in California for an NFLPA event, the first team reps were aplenty for some guys fighting to find a roster spot.
Hakeem Nicks isn't one of those guys, but he showed the chemistry building between him and Andrew Luck on several occasions. Nicks got behind the Colts secondary for a deep touchdown on Thursday and knows how important this time is for him.
"A lot of the terminology is different, so me being a pro, I have to make sure I put in time outside of here and while I'm here to make sure I get that stuff down on my end. That way, once they start calling it and doing what we do, we'll be good to go," Nicks said on Thursday.
One would think that whoever occupies the last few receiver spots on the 53-man roster, will have to make a special teams impact.
Griff Whalen returned punts for the Colts in 2013 and he's not ignoring the battle he's in the thick of this offseason.
"Our group has a ton of competition right now," Whalen said of the receivers.
"We're pushing each other to get better, and I think we're all getting a lot better because of it."**
Who Lines Up Where On The Defensive Line?**
In July-like heat this week, the Colts ran bodies in-and-out and all over the defensive line.
There was Arthur Jones playing inside and outside.
Josh Chapman was in his usual nose technique.
Cory Redding and Ricky Jean Francois saw first-team action as well.
Versatile parts are all over the Colts d-line and the ability to play a guy like Jones outside on early downs, and inside in pass rush situations, is a luxury that this time of year is all about.
"Coach is really trying to see what guys can play all the positions," Francois said.
"It doesn't matter what groups you throw out there, you want to be to a point in a game where there's no drop off. It's OTAs, so you might as well try everything you can. A lot of people are doubting our front but this year we will make a change. We will make a difference." **
Safety Position Evaluating All Options**
In the secondary, a roster is very handy when seeing who's out there.
Vontae Davis has changed numbers (now No. 21) but the real scouring of the 90-man roster comes in the backend.
Colt Anderson, Sergio Brown, Delano Howell, Corey Lynch and David Sims were among the names that got significant reps at the safety spots.
A healthy Greg Toler has returned to the secondary and even with seeing some different faces behind him, he knows how important this time is from a chemistry standpoint.
"As a cohesive unit, you just all want to be accountable," Toler says of the cornerback-safety dynamic. "Knowing that they can count on us on the islands as much as we count on those guys in the infield."
Dwayne Allen And Greg Toler Return
Toler was back opposite Davis this week and there was a familiar face running in between the two Colts cornerbacks during 11-on-11 work.
Dwayne Allen was full go and that's not great news, from a practice standpoint, for the Colts outside linebackers.
"You can tell he's back," Erik Walden said of Allen. "He looked fluid, still has his speed and his burst."
Injured players will continue to trickle into the mix with the obvious key having as close to 90 healthy bodies as possible for the kickoff of training camp on July 23rd.