INDIANAPOLIS — Briiiiiing!
With a quick tug on the boxing bell string, Frank Reich officially gets the Indianapolis Colts' offseason workout program started in style.
The prop, perhaps, is a metaphor that carries many different meetings. After all, after starting the 2019 season strong but then struggling down the stretch, Reich's Colts are preparing to go all 12 rounds in 2020.
Then again, with the COVID-19 pandemic making its mark across the world, the Colts, as an organization, have been doing a little bobbing and weaving of their own, quickly trying to find viable solutions to obstacles not normally faced throughout the offseason — or anytime, for that matter.
Case in point: Monday's first official team meeting of the year. The Colts for weeks had April 20 circled on the calendar as the start of their offseason workout program, but when stay-at-home and social distancing measures were put into place across the country, those plans had to be altered.
So instead of addressing his players and coaches in person on Monday, Reich found himself conducting his first team meeting of 2020 via video conference, with his audience watching on from their respective homes across the country.
"We're going to work, men," Reich tells the team, standing behind his Colts lectern. "Hey — we're respecting the environment we're in. The COVID-19 thing, we're going to respect that, and not only are we going to do our part to take care of ourselves, we're going to do our part to take care of our families and other people. But it ain't gonna stop us from getting where we want to go. It's not going to stop us from getting better, it's not gonna stop us from uniting as a team; we're gonna use every avenue that we can to get better, to get closer, even in these unique circumstances."
As such, to officially kick off the 2020 season, Reich on Monday went on to deliver his annual "foundation inspection," and for a third straight year, the "Three T's" remain a critical aspect of the Colts' operation: trust, toughness and team.
Here's an exclusive inside look into Monday's first team meeting of the year, and how those "Three T's" will once again play a huge role.
Trust has always been a huge part of the way the Colts operate under Reich and general manager Chris Ballard, but it takes on a whole new meaning this offseason.
The Colts will not only be conducting team/positional meetings the next few weeks via video conferencing, but they'll also be utilizing their strength and conditioning staff to conduct virtual workouts with the players.
When Reich and his staff were planning out how a virtual offseason program would look, they asked themselves, "How are we going to know the players are actually following through on their workouts?"
The ultimate answer? Trust.
"We know how important trust is. It's always important … We're trusting each other that, hey, you're trusting us as a coaching staff that we're doing our thing getting ready, and we're trusting that you're doing your thing," Reich told his players. "(It's) really important, men. It's really important."
In fact, Reich said, trust is "maybe even more important right now than ever before."
"We don't have anybody checking off your reps in the weight room, because there's trust, right?" Reich continued. "We're gonna trust you. You tell us you did it, we did it, OK?"
"Become the best at getting better."
The Colts in 2019 started off hot, defeating the Denver Broncos, 15-13, to enter Week 9 at 5-2 and atop the AFC South Division standings.
But by Dec. 29, the team had ended its season with a 38-20 road loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, capping off a 2-7 finish to the year that resulted in a disappointing 7-9 final record.
But the Colts never hung their heads; never gave up. And while the team's "get one percent better every day" and "1-0 mentality" mantras never went away, a new charge was created.
"We said when we introduced this phrase, at least I felt like we had something; this is a phrase that we can hang our hats on, that can carry over into this year, and that was this: 'Become the best at getting better,'" Reich told the team. "So that's kind of the same way to say, 'One percent, 1-0.' Not that we're losing that — we still got that — but just another way to say that, 'Become the best at getting better.' That's the toughness. And during this time, men, we've gotta be tough. It's gotta be on display. It's gotta be self-motivation. You gotta want it."
This new phrase also plays into an increase in healthy "friction" that Reich and Ballard have said they wanted to see out of their players in 2020.
"One thing about our locker room, and I talked with our locker room a lot about this the other day, we have good guys. We really do. And that's an emphasis for us. Guys that'll fight, fight for each other, play for each other," Ballard said Jan. 2 in his end-of-season press conference. "Look, the team runs it. It does. They run it. Coaches, we're going to give you direction, we're going to give you where you need to go, but the locker room, we're going to go as they go. And there's got to be a little more friction within it and pure accountability, and they have to be willing to challenge each other. They do, to an extent. They practice hard, but there's got to be a little bit more challenging aspect to each other, that when things aren't going right, when things aren't getting done the right way, they've got to be able to challenge each other to do it the right way."
Reich then displayed a slide showing "100 percent" next to trust, toughness and team.
It's important to understand, Reich told his players, that the "Three T's" aren't perceived as one whole goal; rather, they each require total effort for the Colts to get to where they want to go.
"They're all three equally important. But when we say they're all equally important, we're not saying it's 33 percent here and 33 percent here and 33 percent there — no. It's 100 percent, all-in, on each one," Reich said.
Maybe the trust is there between two teammates — "I know you've got my back, maybe you have great character and I can trust you when things get hard … if I'm going through a family issue, whatever, I'm fighting something, and I can trust you" — but what if that guy isn't doing everything he needs to do to get better every day?
"If it's just trust, it's not enough," Reich said.
On the other side of the coin: "You can be tough as heck — you can be working your butt off to get better — but if it's always and only about you, and you're not a good team player, then that's not gonna cut it either; that's not gonna get us where we wanna go."
And, finally, what about the Colts' team foundation heading into 2020?
"I can tell you this: the last three months, as a coaching staff — as a coaching staff — and Chris Ballard and his staff, and all the scouts — basically for the last three months, what have we been doing? Foundation inspection," Reich told the team. "Let's look at our guys, let's look at our schemes, let's look at the process, let's look at everything that we're doing to make sure that our foundation, that there's been no cracks in the foundation.
"And the good news, men, is after three months of inspecting that thing, not only are there no cracks, but it's our belief that last year we went deeper and stronger than we did in the first year."
By getting that max effort in trust, toughness and team, that foundation will only grow stronger — even as the Colts work through the challenging circumstances in which they currently find themselves.
"However long this goes, let's just determine right now that nothing's gonna stop us from getting closer and better and stronger together," Reich said