Colts to Hold Mandatory Three-Day Minicamp at Practice Facility
INDIANAPOLIS - The message will be clear and imant.
And although his words will in one sense be very much the same as years past, Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said when he addresses the team on Friday before the start of a three-day veteran/rookie minicamp, they also will be a bit different.
He said he'll make sure of it.
"I have to change the delivery of the message – not change the message, but how they hear it," Dungy said recently. "As my mother would say, 'Say it differently. Say the same thing differently.'''
This weekend's minicamp, the team's only mandatory workouts of the 2008 offseason, is the first extensive work for the Colts' veterans with the 2008 class of rookies.
As such, Dungy said it's the first true gathering of the 2008 Colts.
Dungy, in his seventh season as the Colts' head coach, said he likes the makeup of the team, and said recently the 2008 NFL Draft – in which the Colts selected three offensive linemen, two tight ends, a defensive end, a wide receiver, a linebacker and a running back – addressed the team's needs.
The Colts, who have won the last five consecutive AFC South titles, have made the playoffs each of the last six seasons and eight of the last nine.
Key to that consistency – in addition to the presence of veterans such as quarterback Peyton Manning, wide receiver Reggie Wayne and center Jeff Saturday – has been the team's ability to develop young players through the draft, Dungy said. That has meant having young, recently-drafted players move into starting roles and flourish in their second, third and fourth seasons.
Dungy said that has been true for the past half-decade.
And he said there is potential for it to be true this season, with players such as cornerbacks Kelvin Hayden and Marlin Jackson, linebackers Freddy Keiaho and Tyjuan Hagler, defensive tackle Ed Johnson, offensive tackle Tony Ugoh and wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez entering their second seasons as starters or major contributors.
"We have a good mix of young guys," Dungy said. "We have a number of guys who will be going into their second year who have played a lot, who have to continue to grow. We have a group that has to step up in terms of the leadership role."
The Colts since the beginning of the year have focused largely on resigning key veteran players such as safety Bob Sanders, tight end Dallas Clark and offensive guard Ryan Lilja. Tight end Ben Utecht (Cincinnati) and guard Jake Scott (Tennessee) were the only starters to leave as free agents this offseason.
"We haven't lost too, too many guys from last year's team, so it is a good mix," Dungy said. "I think the guys are hungry, wanting to go back to work and feeling a little disappointed about last year, the way it turned out.
"We've had good work so far with our off-season stuff, so I'm encouraged about where we are."
The weekend's minicamp, Dungy said, serves as a starting point for the on-field portion of the team's off-season and is a critical part of the off-season program. The team will begin 14 days of organized team activities next week.
Under Dungy, the Colts traditionally have held shorter training camps than most NFL teams. Because of that, Dungy said the coming weeks are important to the preparation process.
As much as anything, Dungy said the weeks are a good time to get a gauge on the progress of younger players.
"I'm excited to see how our chemistry builds with our group, the group that we have this year," Dungy said. "I'm always excited to see how our second-year players come along and if they're building on their first year. I always like that group. It's so different. I remember talking to (running back) Joseph (Addai) last year and he was just so much more relaxed, (saying), 'I feel like I know what's going on.' It should show in your play and it should show in your practice.
"You're looking to see that. Then, to see if everybody is on top of the details, if they're taking care of the little things, because that's what determines if you're going to be an OK team or a very good team."
Dungy said his message to the team won't vary significantly.
As in the past, he said the idea will be to win by paying attention to detail, by preparing well every week and by doing what the team does well. It's a message that has helped the Colts become one of the NFL's premier franchises for the last six years, but Dungy said because it's a message that has been delivered for six seasons, he must be sure it's one that's still being heard.
"I told our veteran guys the challenge we're going to have is a lot of these guys have been six years now hearing the same message," Dungy said. "(The challenge is) to pass that on to the younger guys, but to not let it get kind of old.
"We're not going to add a lot of new plays. We're not going to add new defenses. We're not going to do things much different. We have to have that same fire of doing them well and not let the message become so old hat that we don't take it in."