ANDERSON – NFL rules stipulate teams must be in camp a period of time before a practice can be held in pads.
Tuesday is that day for the Colts and spectators at Anderson University will see a different level of controlled aggression when the whistle blows at 1:50 p.m.
Players have worked during the spring and through five camp practices to get to this point. While players may be looking forward to it in some regard, the coaches are ready.
"Oh, I can't wait to put pads on them. I'm really tired of this soccer stuff," said Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians last Saturday when he arrived at camp. "I watched the Olympics last night, but we need to put the pads on and get going and find out who's going to get physical and be the guys up front. We have a pretty good idea, we just want to see them."
The session this afternoon in pads is a progression in forming the team. Head Coach Chuck Pagano measures the physical side of the game with the mental, mixing parts of both shape his product.
"Playing the game is always the most important thing," said Pagano. "As coaches you've got to step back, and you've got to see where they are at. This (Monday afternoon) practice is a culmination of an evening install, the next morning another hour meeting, a walk-through and then we come out here and we practice in the afternoon. We throw everything at them and see where they're at mentally, see where they're at physically."
As for today's padded practice, Pagano says the stepped up level of activity is "where rubber meets the road. Like Bruce (Arians) said, he's tired of soccer. I kind of like soccer, but he's tired of the soccer practice.
"When you're in shorts you get to see athleticism. You get to see guys run around. The mental part you get and you understand, but you always say, 'Look, we'll find out a lot about everybody when we put the pads on.' "
Outside linebacker Dwight Freeney has been a 10-year resume of physical activity. Freeney is playing under his third head coach, and this season presents the first true change in defensive philosophy during his career.
When asked if this would be his most physical camp, Freeney thumbed back to earlier ones that he felt were challenging as well.
"I don't know, it depends," said Freeney on if the 2012 camp would be harsher. "The first four or five years of (Tony) Dungy we already would have had pads on and done two-a-days. We're not going to do that here (take guys to the ground), unless it's goal-line (drills). We actually did that (under Dungy) in the first few years.
"Toward the end of the era we had an older team. We knew we didn't have to kill everybody. Then the rules changed and rules changed more, and we are where we are. It's football. I don't care if you're in pads one day or three days back-to-back, it's going to be rough either way you look at it."
Outside linebacker Robert Mathis has been a mayhem partner of Freeney for many seasons. He remembers past camps, too, that had a bent a little away from an extremely physical nature.
"(It's) true, but we were kind of in the system for 10-plus years, so there was really no need for that," said Mathis. "We all knew what we were doing. It was more mental than physical. Right now, it's mental and physical, so we have to do what we need to do."
Football players play football. It is one of the most common sayings around the game. Players compete every time they practice, and today will be another example.
"I can't pass up a hit. (If) he's (an offensive teammate) got the ball, he's got to get hit," said Mathis. "These (coaches) are the highly defensive-minded guys, so there's going to be some pads cracking."
Three players should be exempt from hitting – Chandler Harnish, Drew Stanton and Andrew Luck. Mathis concedes Luck is off-limits.
"Yeah, of course, we've got to keep him upright."