Colts Veterans Brackett, Hayden Try to Simplify for Newcomers
Gary Brackett and Kelvin Hayden took vastly different paths to the NFL.
And while Brackett was an undrafted free agent and Hayden a second-round draft pick, each have had similar NFL careers.
Neither were starters their first two seasons, instead playing reserve roles and heavily on special teams, and each started 16 games in their third seasons.
Now, Brackett and Hayden are leaned upon heavily as leaders at their respective positions.
And now, as Organized Team Activities begin, the veteran players are being watched, and watched closely.
Not that either player has a problem with that. Both of them have shined brightly on the game's biggest stage. Hayden's 56-yard interception return for a touchdown clinched the Colts' Super Bowl XLI win following the 2006 season. While not as pleasant a memory, Brackett recorded a game-high 13 tackles last season in Super Bowl XLIV against New Orleans.
The audience this time, though, is their teammates, specifically the almost 20 defensive rookies who are hoping to have a career that mimics that of their veteran leaders.
Brackett and Hayden met with the media this week as the Colts opened OTAs at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center and talked about helping bring the young players along. Also, players discussed putting the Super Bowl behind them and Hayden has been reunited with his former college coach.
Brackett the Translator
Brackett mentioned numerous times this week that the most important thing about OTAs is getting the new players on the same page as the veterans. Brackett said he has picked up more than a few tricks of the trade in his eight years in the league and that he is more than willing to pass it on to the rookies.
"I just want to establish the work habits (that are expected). I think we've been successful over the years because of how much work we've put in. The best players across the board have spent a lot of time in here studying film, taking care of their bodies and treating this game as a business, as it should be.
"The easy part is over, getting to the league. The hard part is staying here and being productive for us on the field on Sundays."
To help the young players get acclimated and ready to contribute on Sundays, Brackett is helping them decipher the Colts' language.
"I just need to communicate to (the rookies) and simplify the defense. When you get (the defensive schemes and terminology) from the defensive coordinator, it's (like it's) in Chinese. From our coaches, it sounds like Spanish, and I have to translate it back to English for them," Brackett said.
Second-round draft pick Pat Angerer is glad that Brackett is there to help him learn the defense and says the translating is necessary.
"It's like learning a new language. It's all the same philosophy, but not the same terminology. That's a big difference. In college, it was kind of the same stuff that we are doing here, but it's called different here. Just being able to learn the terminology and how people talk will really help me out."
Angerer has stayed close to Brackett in the first week of OTAs and is absorbing everything he can from the Colts' defensive captain.
"It's great being able to watch Gary play, and hopefully I can mold my game as close to his as possible," Angerer said.
"But I have a lot of work to do."
The Super Bowl is in the Past
All last season the Colts took the approach of 'One Game at a Time.' They never looked past the next game, and most certainly never looked back. That is no different this coming season. The Super Bowl loss last February to New Orleans still stings, players said, but it is not something they have allowed to linger. Their focus is to learn and move on.
"We just want to continue to work and put it behind us. We'll enjoy this process, in regards to OTAs, and continue to work and have fun with it," Hayden said.
"We're focused on the 2010 season."
Brackett knows there are things that the Colts can take from the Super Bowl, but he, too, is ready to move on.
"It's tougher to lose in the Super Bowl than any other game. (But) you just have to tip your hat to New Orleans. They did a great job executing and there are just some things that we need to continue to work on."
Despite the loss, Brackett knows teams are still chasing the Colts, and to stay among the NFL's elite teams won't be easy.
"Guys are gunning for us, year-in, year-out. In our division alone … guys are really gunning for us. They want to take our championship, and you have to work even harder than you worked to get there, to stay there."
Hayden reunited with Turner
New Colts wide receivers coach Ron Turner is not a new face to everyone. He was Hayden's head coach in college at Illinois, and Hayden is excited to be reunited with him.
"When he got here we talked and exchanged numbers. He got to talking about his kids and I remember them when they were babies, now they are big boys and girls. Actually, everybody is in college, except for his daughter, Morgan, who is still in high school. We got a chance to talk about everything. He said once he gets situated he wants to bring me over and have dinner."
Hayden spent two seasons at Illinois, leading the Illini in receiving before being moved to cornerback as a senior. The person behind the switch was Turner.
"We talked about that when he first got here,'' Hayden said. "I said to him, 'It wasn't that bad of a move.'"