INDIANAPOLIS --- Colts tight end Dwayne Allen arrived at the team practice facility for the start of the offseason program Monday, a change from this time one year ago when Allen chose to workout with his own trainers in Arizona during this voluntary portion of the NFL calendar. Allen said Monday though it was important to switch to full offseason attendance this time around.
"Yeah, because the commitment made to me to come back here and stay here for the next four years was also a commitment for me to continue to lead this team," said Allen, alluding to the four-year contract extension he signed shortly before being scheduled to enter free agency in March.
Not only that, but now Allen says he views last year's decision to initially train on his own as a missed opportunity that came with unintended consequences.
"I would rap last year's trip to AZ as a lapse of judgement, because this time of year is where the camaraderie amongst your teammates is built," said Allen. "Missing (the start of the offseason program) last year, I missed out on a lot of that. So, it's something I'm ready and willing to capitalize on this year."
The truth was Allen didn't even know if he'd be back at his old locker after the end of last season, with fellow tight end Coby Fleener and himself both entering free agency.
"I never experienced an anxiety attack until going through the free agency process," Allen joked. "Heart pounding, sweating, but man, I'm just thankful for it. It added to my character. It added patience even more...When I finally got word that I could be coming back here, it wasn't a feeling of relief but a feeling of, 'You know, it's time for me to work hard.'"
It didn't take too long after the season for Allen to find out the organization that drafted him with the first pick in the third round of the 2012 draft wanted him back in 2016.
"It was communicated to me, from the top down, they wanted me to know that they understood my worth," said Allen. "And regardless of the season I had prior, they were going to compensate me off my worth through my body of work and also potential, not just what I did in one season."
Statistically, Allen struggled in 2016 with career lows in receptions (16), yards (109), and touchdowns (1), if you do not include 2013, when he suffered a season-ending injury week one. However, his value as a great blocker in both the run and pass game were not overlooked, nor were the 8 touchdowns he scored in 2014.
"I would say scheme would be the underlying factor," said General Manager Ryan Grigson during the NFL Annual Meeting at the end of March, when asked what went into the decision to pursue Allen instead of Fleener in free agency. "His skill set is pretty broad, and he's a powerful and tenacious blocker at the point of attack. I would say that was one of the strongest factors in that decision."
"He's a great combo (tight end)," said Head Coach Chuck Pagano of Allen at the same Annual Meeting. "He gives you versatility there. He's one of the best blocking tight ends in the league."
Pagano also said, in 2016, he envisions more than the 16 receptions Allen hauled in last season.
"Obviously, with Andrew down and circumstances and things like that we didn't get him the ball as much as we'd like to," said Pagano. "We're going to address that this year."
With Rob Chudzinski installing more of his offense entering his first full season as Colts offensive coordinator, the precedent for tight end production is there. Before arriving in Indianapolis, Chudzinski was very tight end friendly. Browns tight end Jordan Cameron racked up 80 receptions, 917 yards, and 7 touchdowns in 2013 with "Chud" as head coach. In 2012, Panthers tight end Greg Olsen caught 69 passes for 843 yards and 5 touchdowns with Chudzinski as offensive coordinator. Both Cameron and Olsen were second on their team those seasons in receiving yardage.
Surly music to Dwayne Allen's ears, after being present and accounted for at the start of the Colts offseason program.