INDIANAPOLIS – The NFL off-season work is divvied up into three phases over a nine-week period and today starts the final phase as Organized Team Activities (OTAs) get underway.
Starting on April 15, players returned for a two-week conditioning period that moved to a different phase on April 29.
At that point, coaches could engage on individual instruction and drills with players, but no teamwork could be done offense-versus-defense.
Now, all but two free agent signees can be on hand starting today as the first of 10 OTA practices will be held.
Among the players stoked to get on the field is Josh Chapman.
"OTAs kind of get you going. There is more you can do out there on the field," said Chapman. "It's a different phase that kind of gets you gradually ready on the field.
"Right now, we're ready to enter Phase Three. You're moving around more. You're going against the offense a little bit more. It's going to be fun to see."
Participation levels over the first five weeks have been impressive. In mid-April, about 70 players showed up. It has been consistent since then.
Players will be in helmets and shorts – pads will not be worn until training camp – and the offense and defense will be able to jostle for the first time.
Among the elements that will be interesting will be the offense under new coordinator Pep Hamilton.
The Indianapolis defense will get its first eyeful of the attack, and 15-year veteran Matt Hasselbeck says offensive players still are busy getting up to speed.
"We're all learning the offense," said Hasselbeck. "I don't know if there is anybody except the Stanford guys that has the verbiage fully down.
"I think we're all learning, and I think Pep Hamilton is doing a great job of keeping us on our toes. He's making us think and study every day."
While Andrew Luck is more versed and should see a bit more action in OTAs, Hasselbeck will get work, too.
"The intensity usually picks up (in OTAs)," said Hasselbeck. "The defense is across from you and can get after us a little bit. Any time you get a chance to compete, while it's real physical and it's a little more mental, disguising coverages and things like that, there's not a lot of bump-and-run press coverage, but still you're competing.
"The ball is in the air. You have two guys going up for the ball. The moment of truth and someone's making a play, or someone's not making a play. It's exciting. It's the next step. It's more than practicing (against air)."
Thirty-seven of the players on roster have joined Indianapolis this year, eight through unrestricted free agency and seven via the draft.
It will be a merging of personnel on OTAs that will further help define the club's look this year.
"It's kind of like the first true test to see where we're at, who we have and see their competitive natures," said Robert Mathis. "I think it's going to be very interesting."
Antoine Bethea is nearly as tenured as Mathis and is one of the most senior Colts. His juices will pick up today.
"It's time to start," said Bethea. "I know the offense wants to go out there and see what they can do. As far as the defense, we have some new people and some in their second year (here). We're going to go out and see how we move.
"We're going to go out and have some fun, some friendly competition."