INDIANAPOLIS – Head Coach Jim Caldwell and his staff spent the first 18 days of August watching the Colts come together for 23 practices in training camp at Anderson University.
The team broke camp and returned to Indianapolis to meet Washington last Friday in the second preseason game.
Now back full-time at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, Caldwell has a seven-day week to prepare his team to meet Green Bay on Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium in a contest that will be televised nationally.
The club long has used the third preseason game as a template for how it will prepare each week for the 16-game regular season that starts on September 11.
This week is no different.
The coaches met through the weekend getting the preparations on track. As the team reported on Monday, it was faced with a typical regular-season Wednesday workload. The building had a little bit of a regular season 'feel' as the team prepared to meet the Packers.
Prior to getting that 'feel' when they reported on Monday, a couple of established veterans were asked about the approach to the preseason's third week.
Defensive end Dwight Freeney answered questions after the Washington game about the team's play. He wanted to tamp down questions until when the club prepared for a specific opponent, something Indianapolis does this week in meeting the Packers.
"That's more of a familiar feeling for us," said Freeney of the week three workload geared more for an opponent than what the team did for its first two games. "It's kind of preparing on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, whenever it is, for our opponent. We get to study ourselves, how the offensive line sets up, where the running back (is), what formations (they employ), what tendencies (they have). That (this Friday) is the game to point for."
Safety Melvin Bullitt also played down the concerns of the first two preseason games where opponents struck early to build advantages. Indianapolis trailed at intermission in its first two games, but Bullitt, like Freeney, pointed to the third week.
"It's better now than later," said Bullitt about the challenges of the first two games. "It's better in preseason, still, no excuses. We definitely have a lot to work on, but those are the things we needed to happen now. We'll get the kinks out and work from there. It's a work in progress, it definitely is, it always is. We have some good players. We have a good, veteran team. We know how to get better and improve. This whole thing (preseason) is getting ready for week one.
"It definitely will (be a big week in prepping for Green Bay). Coach (Caldwell) always puts together a great game plan. Obviously, we have some things to work on. We definitely need to improve. We need to improve tackling. We have to make sure we have guys out there hustling, getting to the ball. That's basically it."
Preparation in any form of business is better when there is a structured regimen. This week affords Caldwell the seven-day cycle between games that coaches enjoy.
"It's a Friday-to-Friday situation, so we get a chance to work this one (week) like we would a normal (regular season) week," said Caldwell. "It's a little bit different when you go from a Friday to a Thursday (in preseason), it's a little bit shorter. This one will really be good for us because it's one of the few times during the preseason in the last couple of years we've have a Friday-to-Friday match-up back-to-back. It gives us an opportunity to really go through a normal week's preparation."
Defensive back Jerraud Powers noted the different 'feel' not just in preparations, but in location as well, and he knows the importance of the week.
"Yeah, I think this week is going to be key because we're back in our facilities," said Powers. "We're doing things as if this were a regular season game, so everybody's going to get a feel how a week goes when it's the regular season and we're game-planning and doing things of that nature. It should be a good week.
"It's just business (as usual). Each week we just want to be better than the week before. As long as we're making that progress we think we're achieving as a team, even though the two games (before) the scoreboard might not have said it. Each week we take the positive out of it and we think we're getting better. Defensively, last week we needed to tackle better. We did well in the red zone, holding them to field goals. We know we need to tackle, stop the run and cover a little bit better. That's going to be the focus of this week. It's going to be a great challenge with (Aaron) Rodgers, Greg Jennings, (Donald) Driver and all those guys. They're coming off a Super Bowl win. They have a lot of their guys back. It's going to be a great challenge and should be a fun game."
Linebacker Gary Brackett knows the team has not performed to its preferred level the first two games where there was no specific approach planned for an opponent. He cited the red zone defense last week being a positive when the team forced Washington to kick three field goals. He also saw where tackling could be improved and that other concerns were correctable.
In the third preseason week, Brackett senses the 'feel.'
"It's a normal game week as far as implementing our strategies on Wednesday (Monday of this week) and then we go over them," said Brackett. "It's the same for our practice schedule, so it gets us used to what's going to happen in a couple of weeks. It gets us prepared (like we're) playing a real game."
Brackett thinks this week will provide a better gauge on where the team is than the prior two games actually indicated.
"I think so, because you will play more reps," he said. "We do a lot more planning, seeing how we can attack the other team, seeing if we can go out there and execute the game plan."
Even rookies noted a difference than what they experienced at training camp at Anderson University. First-round pick Anthony Castonzo sort of felt like a new time had dawned.
"It feels different in the sense that we're going more in a game mode, where before we were in camp mode," said Castonzo. "It's definitely a different week, and I'm looking at it almost like today (Monday) is kind of my first day of real work. It's game week now."