INDIANAPOLIS – Chuck Pagano and his staff put 37 rookies and selected first-year players through a 60-minute morning walk-through and an afternoon practice that lasted 105 minutes to open the Colts' weekend camp.
Working indoors at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center because of overnight rain (the outside temperature was 64 degrees), the practices took a sometimes crisp pace with players moving briskly on both sides of the ball.
"We're off to a good start. It was a great day," said Pagano, who looked fit and ready for action. "We threw a lot at these guys, from a mental standpoint (and) physical standpoint.
"We gave them a bunch of information. They did a pretty good job of digesting that. They took what we gave them in the meeting room and came out here early this morning and had a great walk-through and then a pretty productive practice."
It was the first on-field look at a staff that features new offensive (Pep Hamilton) and special teams (Tom McMahon) coordinators, along with Joe Gilbert assuming the lead offensive line coaching role.
Gilbert and new assistant line coach Hal Hunter put their players through extensive individual drills as the team worked in separate groups for about the first hour of the afternoon session.
Khaled Holmes and Hugh Thornton worked at center and right guard, while Justice Cunningham was active in pass patterns and Kerwynn Williams displayed flashes.
"The things you expect in a rookie mini-camp to happen took place – some dropped balls, center-quarterback exchange (problems), a few mental errors here and there," said Pagano. "Really what we're looking for (we saw). The effort was fabulous.
"They came in in probably better shape than any of us anticipated. We're pleased overall with the first day."
Bjoern Werner and Montori Hughes were active on the defensive front seven, while John Boyett went through some drills at safety.
"It was so much fun just getting out there with the new teammates, the rookies, and just having fun," said Werner. "I had a blast. It's time for football again. It was a long period with no football.
"Everything is new. What I got taught at Florida State is over. My coach has new techniques, a new language and I just have to learn it now."
Pagano was like all camp observers, witnessing a mobile Werner for the duration of the day.
"(He's) what we thought, probably a little better," said Pagano. "He's in great shape. He's a really athletic football player. He's got first-step explosiveness.
"All the things we saw on the tape, up close and personal now, it's even more impressive. He's a really bright guy. He understands and gets football."
The rookie camp looked different than last year when eight-of-10 picks were on offense, including two quarterbacks, tight ends and wide receivers, plus one running back.
There were heavy contributions from rookies last year, and Pagano noted the nature of the roster – bolstered by the addition of eight unrestricted free agents – means the initial pressure is not as great on this year's rookie group.
"That means you're getting closer from a roster standpoint and team standpoint to where you want to be," said Pagano of the team not having as many holes as it did a year ago.
ALSO FRIDAY – All seven of the club's draft picks were on hand, and the camp opened with six-of-seven choices having been signed. Only top pick Bjoern Werner (24th overall) remains unsigned, and the pace of the club's signings is faster than last year when six-of-10 signed in May.
Thirteen of the participants were tryouts, including defensive end Jordan Bright (Indiana State; Hobart), kicker Mike Josifovski (Marian; Hobart) and safety Nick Driskill (Wabash native). The position breakdown of the non-tryouts is: WR-4; OL-5; TE-1; RB-4; DL-1; LB-4; DB-4; K/P-1. The tryouts by position are: WR-1; OL-2; QB-2; TE-1; DL-2; LB-1; DB-2; LS-1; K-1. The camp quarterbacks are tryouts Clay Belton (Findlay) and Tanner Marsh (Arkansas Tech).
All players are scheduled to be here for the duration of the three-day camp and of the non-tryouts, all but perhaps two should remain in Indianapolis next week.
HOLMES A CANDIDATE – Fourth-round pick Khaled Holmes is a candidate for Sports Illustrated's College Athlete-of-the-Year. Holmes started 24 games at center and 13 at guard at USC, gaining All-Pac-12 honors three times. He matched that with academic excellence with a 3.31 GPA, earning a bachelor's degree with majors in classics and communications and a master's in communication management. Holmes is one of two Pac-12 players ever cited for all-conference honors athletically and academically. Holmes was one of six finalists for the Rimington Award.