OWNER AND CEO-JIM IRSAY (opening comments) * *
"This is my 38th (training camp) and my first was in Golden, Colorado in 1972. Thirty-eight consecutive (camps)."
OWNER AND CEO-JIM IRSAY (how the 38th camp looks)
"It is exciting. I think, again, there is an outstanding football team in the making here. We know here that it really doesn't mean anything, what we have done in the past doesn't mean anything. It's all about '09, and I think that is something I've been very direct about in talking with everyone. Mike, I know you and I talked about this earlier in the year. There was a really mantra that I started early that the longer you've been here, the more you have to check your rationalization at the door in terms of, 'Are you ready to really get after it. Are you really ready more than ever to commit to go get a championship?' Because the competition is more hungry than ever. Teams like Atlanta, Houston, many teams – they are looking to get in the playoffs, looking to knock you out. We're well aware from a national standpoint that no one is picking us…if you read it, no one is picking us. If you look at things in our division like, 'Who is the best defensive end?' It's not Dwight Freeney. If you look at, 'Who is the best wide receiver?' It's not Reggie Wayne. Our guys know it; they know what we are up against in terms of having Tony Dungy gone, having Marvin (Harrison) gone. For me, this is continually part of the dream you have, to establish greatness, to be a champion and then go out past a decade in the era of the salary cap and try and do some of the things the 49ers did and take it for 15 years and win more than one and that sort of thing. It gnaws at you. We want more than one. We had chances. We know that the only thing that matters is Jacksonville. In terms of what we think about, there is nothing really on our mind except for Jacksonville in September, and everything else is really irrelevant. That attitude is here. I see people like Dwight Freeney, who has more than ever assumed a leadership role, is working harder and challenging himself. And that's what it is about. It's about our leaders, our coaches. And the longer you've been here – and I put myself at the top because I've been here the longest – you have to be ready to go. You have to really want this thing. I know I can speak in this forum because I know the commitment I've made. If you told me, 'Hey, let's pack up everyone and we are going for four months to Alaska because that's what it is going to take to win this thing,' I'm there. I know we have that kind of commitment in people like (Team President) Bill Polian, (Senior Offensive Line Coach) Howard Mudd, (Senior Offensive Coordinator) Tom Moore, guys who have been around a really long time. That's what this is about, coming in and saying, 'We have to get it up at that level.' And it is great when you have Peyton Manning, because Peyton is a lot like Tiger Woods. I think if Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning – those are the three guys I think about in terms of what they do preparation and how much that fire burns. And it's no coincidence that Tiger and Peyton are friends because Peyton has that understanding. It's kind of like you run a marathon, you think you run your best time, and then you get to the starting line again and they say, 'We need five more minutes.' You have to find a way to bring it to the next level, and that serves us well having that kind of leadership. But I'm always nervous; I know how tough it is out there. Like I said before, to win and to have six 12-win seasons in a row, as I look back in retrospect, it's still unbelievable to me. I can't believe in this era that we were able to accomplish that. And yet, right now, all that is a memory and in the past, and as nice as those memories are, we are interested in the now and the present. We are really excited. It's a great group on defense. It's an aggressive group. It's the most talented group I have seen on defense at this point in training camp. Offensively, the playmakers are there, and I talked to Howard Mudd and Pete (Metzelaars) today, and we have to get that offensive line to gel. We need production, particularly in the running game. I know everyone is up for the task. In terms of Howard Mudd and Tom Moore, they are doing the same things that they have always done. This is really…what I would have thought. I probably would have said it was Tony Dungy's last year and we really miss him, but Jim Caldwell is outstanding. I always said he was not a hire out of convenience but because he was the best guy there. And I felt Marvin's time was probably coming to a close as well. But I think there a lot of guys fighting for Marvin's position; Pierre Garcon looks like an outstanding guy to me. And there are some other guys chomping at the bit to get that position. But I think the skill positions, they are really there."
OWNER AND CEO-JIM IRSAY (on if there is any concern about Bob Sanders)
"I'm not. I know Bob has to get ready and he is doing everything he can to get ready. It is a long season and going in to this training camp we figured it was going to be something where he was going to have to continue to rehab the knee strength and get ready for the opener. And I think there is a good chance he should be ready for it. In the last few years, we've known with Bob that early on. There has been some monitoring, which happens with great veteran players. You have to allow them some time, and if they have something that needs to heal up, they may have to practice differently. Btu he's worth it, he's worth it. He brings everything he has when he is ready to go. We look forward to a big year from him."
OWNER-JIM IRSAY (on naming Caldwell the successor to Dungy early on)
"The key thing was we didn't want to lose (Caldwell). We did it because, you have to remember, he was being interviewed by a lot of different teams, and he was the guy we wanted. We wanted to lock him up, and that was the best thing for the Indianapolis Colts, was not letting him get away to another club. We knew Tony was taking it year-to-year, so it was the best way to ensure the franchise had the guy they wanted."
OWNER AND CEO-JIM IRSAY (on 3rd-and-two against San Diego last year)
"From my perspective, you can't have a glaring weakness and be championship team. And we all know you have to be able to run the ball. And the way we were running the ball during the year concerned me. And those things catch up to you. If there are trends during the regular season, where everything is on the line, that trend is usually going to pop up, so you usually want to try and eliminate it. I thought that we weren't running the ball well enough and that came back to haunt us. It was not a surprise. Again, you try and go forward and do everything you can to get ready. The real theme in the offseason was we couldn't really allow the other team to have so many snaps. We just can't bend and break, we can't give up four-to-five yards on first downs to other teams, we can't allow them to drive and hold the ball for so long because we are not getting enough snaps. The other thing is, we have to be able to run the football. Where we ranked in rushing, that was just not going to get it done, and we know that. So that was a focus coming in. We got a lot bigger on defense, a lot more physical. I think we are going to be even more aggressive on defense. And offensively, it remains to be seen, but we have to be able to prove we can run the ball. And, I think also, for negative yards lost is a big negative, as well. You can't go in there, second-and-eight, okay, but second-and-13, no. And that happened a lot. We had a lot of plays that were negative run plays and that's just unacceptable. We all know it, and that's where the focus is at out there."