INDIANAPOLIS – Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. marks the first practice this year where all 90 Colts players are eligible to participate.
Though the squad has undergone 10 organized team activity (OTA) practices during three of the past four weeks and a rookie camp during the first week in May, today is the initial time for all hands to be on deck.
Indianapolis could not convene three of its rookies – quarterback Andrew Luck and wide receivers LaVon Brazill and Griff Whalen – during the OTAs because of academic requirements at Stanford and Ohio University. Now that classroom studies for the trio have ended, the next proving field awaits at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
The three players will be mixed with the healthy veteran bodies for two practices on Tuesday, followed by single sessions on Wednesday and Thursday. Those will the only remaining sessions for the full squad until July 29 in training camp at Anderson University.
"We are pleased to bring the whole team together for the camp this week," said Head Coach Chuck Pagano. "It is good now to have all players eligible to participate.
"We have had productive practices throughout the spring with the rookie camp and OTAs. Coaches have been instructing, players have been learning, and this has been a growth period for the entire organization. We look forward to what we can accomplish this week."
Players on hand for this spring's work have kept a competitive, positive attitude. Many of them missed working this time last year because of labor matters, and those who have been in Indianapolis over the past seasons have seen a number of new faces already introduced to the mix.
Adding the final trio of players this week is a plus for all parties involved.
"(I'm) eager, I'm excited," said Austin Collie, who has anticipated gelling with Luck. "I think all us receivers are chomping at the bit just because it is such an integral part of what we do, as far as timing, getting to know each other and being on the same page. It's going to be fun having him here and to get to work.
"I think it takes a while (to get acclimated). We're going to have to take advantage the time we have off after the mini-camp. We have to make sure that we're getting it (the work) in."
Seventh-round pick Chandler Harnish has been working in Luck's absence with Colts quarterbacks Drew Stanton, Trevor Vittatoe and David Legree. Harnish knows the practice dynamic will be altered with Luck's arrival.
"He's going to be taking the majority of the reps, which he probably should," said Harnish last week to media covering the OTAs. "That's the way our team is going. He needs to get as many as he can because he is pretty far behind."
Reggie Wayne has spent 10 of his 11 seasons snaring passes predominantly from Peyton Manning. Wayne, who has receptions in 167 of 173 career outings, including a current streak of 96 straight games, caught passes in 2011 from Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky. He is primed to get going with Luck.
"I'm ready. As a receiver, obviously you want your main quarterback to be there," said Wayne. "I'm just like (everyone), I want to see what he can do. I want to see if he can throw. We know he can throw a college ball. We don't know if he can throw a pro ball yet. We'll find out. I'm just as excited to see him as (everyone)."
Cornerback Jerraud Powers is among players on the other side of the ball anticipating Luck's return.
"I'm looking forward to it," said Powers of sharing the field with the draft's top pick. "It's going to be fun. From what I've heard in rookie camp, he has that enthusiasm by himself also. I think he likes to have fun playing, but (he) takes it seriously, of course. I think a couple of the older guys, we'll be in his ear a little bit while we're out there. We're definitely going to be in his ear talking to him a little bit.
"I can't wait just to have him in and see what he is about and see how he is going to conduct this team. He is the leader. He is our quarterback. He is the one everyone is going to look up to, and I'm sure he's going to do a good job doing it."
Players and coaches will not be the only ones with a chance to view the Colts this week. Indianapolis has a 2:00 p.m. practice on Wednesday at Lucas Oil Stadium where fans can view the team free of charge. There will be an open house from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., with field access during the first hour of that period. Practice will run until approximately 4:15 p.m. and fans may remain until 6:00 p.m. Those wishing to view seats remaining for purchase for 2012 home games may do so for the duration of the event.
Wednesday will mark Luck's first work with the Colts on the playing field where he hopes to star for years. The work will come below the name of his first collegiate head coach, Jim Harbaugh, who is enshrined in the Colts Ring of Honor on a façade on the east side of the stadium. Harbaugh has seen from Luck what Colts fans soon hope to observe.
"What makes a kid this good? Mom, dad, God and a really strong work ethic," said Harbaugh during Luck's Stanford career. "He's got all the qualities, really, mentally, physically. He's as prepared as anybody you're going to find. … He's one of the finest football players I've ever been around. He's an even better person, one of the top five guys I've ever been around. He was a joy to coach."