GETTING STARTED

The Colts will hold their initial rookie mini-camp under first-year Head Coach Jim Caldwell beginning Friday. As has been the case in recent seasons, the session is mainly about acclimating and educating rookies on the Colts' system and philosophies.

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Colts to Hold First Mini-camp Under Caldwell Beginning Friday

INDIANAPOLIS – The approach this weekend won't much change.

Yet, for Jim Caldwell, the time will be anything but routine.

The Colts, a postseason team each of the past seven seasons, on Friday will begin their annual three-day rookie mini-camp at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. As has been the case in recent seasons, the emphasis will be on acclimation, education and preparation.

Still, for Caldwell it will be not only his first mini-camp since succeeding Tony Dungy as head coach after seven years as an assistant, but also his first time running practices as an NFL head coach.

And yes, he said, that makes it special.

"I'm excited about it – that's for sure," Caldwell said recently.

Caldwell, the Colts' Associate Head Coach this past season, said beyond the excitement there is a clear task this weekend – and that's to get the eight players selected in last weekend's 2009 NFL Draft and the undrafted rookie free agents signed afterward familiar with the Colts' way of doing things.

The Colts moved toward the educational, informative rookie minicamp approach several years ago.

Colts President Bill Polian said it's an approach that has worked, and one that allows Colts coaches and personnel officials to see newly-acquired players in a new perspective.

"You get a chance to see them all up close and personal from the standpoint of the whole group," Polian said. "You're judging them prior to the weekend against their peers at the collegiate level. Now, you get to see them all together in a group."

The rookies will participate in classroom work, as well as three practices, Caldwell said.

"We'll go out on the field and practice once each day and get them acclimated to what they're going to have to do from a schematic standpoint both offensively and defensively and also introduce them to the kicking game as well," Caldwell said.

Polian has said in the past there is comparatively little evaluation done during the three-day rookie camp, with the emphasis on providing information to the rookies to help them be ready when they return for summer-school and offseason conditioning.

Still, he also said there are times coaches and personal officials can get a feel for a player.

He often has told the story of the 2006 rookie camp, when a sixth-round draft selection showed quickly that he not only likely would contribute, but do so quickly on a big-time level.

That player was safety Antoine Bethea, who made the Pro Bowl the following season.

"Some, like Antoine Bethea, just jump out at you," Polian said. "You say, 'Wow, that guy's going to make it. No question about it.' One of these seems to happen every rookie camp."

But Polian said just as imant is realizing that not every player adapts as quickly as Bethea, and that just because he doesn't is no guarantee he won't be an NFL success.

"There are other guys who struggle and you go all the way through OTAs and they struggle and then the light goes on in training camp when you start to hit and the guy turns out to be a good player," Polian said. "(Third-year safety) Melvin Bullitt is one of those. . . .

"Sometimes, you're surprised. Other times you have a feel, particularly for a collegiate free agent, that, 'Yeah, that guy can for sure make it.' It varies from year to year."

Polian said the hope following this past weekend's NFL Draft is "if we've done a good job in selecting, we will improve our team in some cases in large measure and in other cases in not quite as large a measure, but nevertheless improve it.

"What you're striving for is that 53-man team that can go out there and compete every week no matter the vagaries of injury and illness, etc.," Polian said.

And while there won't be much evaluation in the coming days, Polian and Caldwell said it marks the start of the process, if only in a small way.

"It's just a question of getting to look them in the eye, shaking their hand and getting to know them as Colts and not just another face that's interviewing them," Polian said.

"You bring them in not necessarily for a competition at that time, but for gathering of information," Caldwell said. "We try to instruct them and teach them the way we do things, how we want things done not only just in terms of a classroom setting, but on the field as well."

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