WESTFIELD, Ind. — Frank Reich is a big subscriber to the theory that a team plays like it practices.
So as he enters his second training camp as the Indianapolis Colts' head coach, there's only one speed that's acceptable in practices as it relates to games: fast.
The Colts held their first training camp practice of the year Thursday at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind., and the primary goal of the day was getting everybody on board with not only executing various plays at a high level, but moving at an accelerated pace — both physically and mentally.
"We've got to practice at game speed. We've got to think at game speed. We've got to adjust at game speed. We've got to try to make it hard on each other out here so we figure out how to adapt," Reich told reporters after Thursday's practice. "We compete out here, like we would in a game, and when we get in there on Sundays we're just doing our thing."
And how'd the team respond?
"Even though we weren't in pads I thought the guys did a really good job of practicing super fast, being smart, avoiding collisions, so it was a good start," Reich said.
The Colts have one more practice in shorts and helmets Friday before throwing the pads on for the first time on Saturday. The team practiced in full pads for 12 out of their 18 training camp practices last year, benefitting greatly from turning up the intensity and being able to better simulate game-like conditions.
What were some other takeaways from Reich's Thursday press conference?
» Luck's limited: The Colts will continue to exercise great caution with players dealing with any sort of nick, bruise or pull — especially in the first seven to 10 days of training camp, when studies show injuries (or re-injuries) are most likely to occur. That approach certainly applies to starting quarterback Andrew Luck, who suffered a strained calf early in the team's offseason workout program. Luck is feeling good entering camp, but there's no reason to rush him back into full action and risk a setback, Reich said. Luck on Thursday participated in early positional drills before watching the rest of practice from the sideline, and Reich said the plan is to slowly bring him back into the fold. The next step will be 7-on-7 participation, and then he can be instituted into 11-on-11s.
» Handling expectations: Reich, like general manager Chris Ballard, isn't afraid to embrace positive outside expectations for his team. But Reich said it's important for his team to remain focus on its own high expectations, and not get caught up too much in what's being said about them outside the building. "We're excited that everybody else is excited. We're happy about that. We want to generate that enthusiasm and excitement here for Colts fans, but when we come to work, the only thing that we're concentrating on is meeting our own high expectations," Reich said. "And really, and we talked about this last year, I remember us in here as a group talking about (this), our expectations are primarily about how we practice. And let's just have high expectations, but we're going to do it out here, then let's let that carry over to Sundays."
» "Drama King:" Speaking of expectations, Reich couldn't help but laugh when a reporter brought up the fact that at this time last year he showing his players a piece of paper with "32" printed on it, representing how the Colts were ranked in various organizations' preseason power rankings. Reich then brought that “32” sign back into the locker room after the team defeated the Tennessee Titans in Week 17 of the regular season to earn a postseason berth. Reich on Thursday said he's not a huge believer in using that kind of material to send a message, but it just felt right at the time. "No, the 32 thing – I own the fact that I did that," Reich said with a laugh. "Yeah, I was a little drama king – a little out of character for me. But I was just going with the flow at the time I guess. I am never caught up in that world. I like to say there's always a time and place to use anything as motivation and that was an isolated incident. We are really just focused about getting better out here every day."