INDIANAPOLIS – This time a year ago, Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano were just about concluding an off-season of work that would help define their first years as general manager and head coach.
It would be Grigson's 14th in the NFL, but his first in the spotlight of his prestigious role.
He was watching a new coaching staff form in addition to a playing roster, and that roster was a compilation of returnees and veteran additions, not to mention a rookie class that would bear an immense need to produce quickly.
Indianapolis emerged from spring work in good shape before it broke for summer vacation that led into training camp.
As the Colts approach that same checkpoint in his second season in Indianapolis, Grigson is pleased with how this spring has unfolded.
"Definitely, (and) it all starts with our head coach," said Grigson. "Chuck has created the culture that is conducive to drawing these players in and them buying in on a daily basis. There are a lot of new players with a lot being thrown at them, but they've all handled it like pros.
"Just our overall attendance speaks for itself in terms of their overall dedication and willingness to learn."
The term "buying in" was a season-long mantra in 2012. Players parroted the phrase last year not because it was the company line, but because it was a truism.
"You have to buy in. Either you buy in, or you get out," said Cory Redding recently, applying last year's practice to this year's squad. "That's just how it has to be. We roll one way and one way only, as a team."
A year ago, Pagano instilled the value of relationships with his players, typically inquiring more along family lines as a means of introduction before getting down to the business of football. That genuine approach still remains his common practice.
Last year, pillar veterans like Antoine Bethea, Reggie Wayne, Robert Mathis and Adam Vinatieri welcomed established pros like Redding, and they melded with a rookie class that performed to one of the best levels in league history.
Forty-two players started games, while 68 saw action. Buying in, they took authorship of a program that went 11-5 and aims for a second straight successful season.
Through Grigson and Pagano, the roster is much more prepared than it was a year ago. Still, there is competition on every unit, and the 90-man roster has been supplemented with 37 new faces hoping to work their way into the mix that many did a year ago.
With an OTA participation level that is about 90 percent, full-fledged competition is evident to Grigson and his coach.
"You can sense it immediately and see it with your eyes in all the drills," said Grigson. "There's no doubt that it is a healthy environment for growth and development no matter how young or how old.
"Chuck and I have always felt that if you are a champion you welcome the competition, the pressure, the expectations and you rise to the occasion."
As last year's rookies rose to establish footprints, so is Grigson's seven-man 2013 draft class. Safety John Boyett (sixth-round) is slowed by knee rehabilitation, but the rest are proving their selections by jumping into the organizational culture.
"(You see) just how dialed in they have been since they've arrived. They all have 'bought in,' so to speak, and you can't fake that," said Grigson. "We knew before we drafted them that these young men all loved the game and were willing to work at their craft day in and day out.
"That is exactly what these rookies have done and will be expected to do moving forward if they want to have the type of success we expect."
Grigson is a firm leader from the front, and it is not surprising to notice the same type of direction coming from his second-year field leader.
"Chuck and his coaches have done a great job instilling that blue collar mindset around here," said Grigson. "When we step in this building every day we all need to roll our sleeves up and get to work."