Colts Wide Receiver Anthony Gonzalez Glad to be Practicing at 2010 Training Camp
ANDERSON, Ind. – Anthony Gonzalez doesn't yet know his role this season.
And while it would be inaccurate to say the former first-round selection doesn't care about that role, it would be very accurate to say there's something more imant to the veteran wide receiver.
A chance to play.
For that matter, even the chance to practice in the Central Indiana heat during 2010 Training Camp has been welcome for Gonzalez.
"I've been telling everybody, 'I just want to practice,'' Gonzalez said this week during Colts training camp, which continued Thursday with a pair of practices at Anderson University.
"'Give me a practice: we'll start with that and then see how it goes.' "
The chance to practice is not only a welcome one for Gonzalez, it's one for which he has waited longer than he hoped.
Gonzalez, a first-round selection in the 2007 NFL Draft, played extensively in his first two NFL seasons, then entered last season as the starting wide receiver opposite Reggie Wayne. But he sustained a knee injury in the season opener that eventually kept him out the rest of the season.
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said it's not only good to see Gonzalez working, it's important to the effectiveness of the offense.
"I know Anthony's happy to be out there," Manning said. "Every time Anthony's on the field he makes plays and big plays. He has made plays throughout his time here. It will be good to get him back out on the field and it's really going to help our offense this year."
Manning said he began to realize Gonzalez was ready during July.
"We had kind of July off and we spent a little time down in Tennessee," Manning said. "Gonzalez and (wide receiver Austin) Collie came down there and worked out with me because he (Gonzalez) missed mini-camp. He wanted to get down there and get some reps.
"He and I had three really good days of throwing where I thought he looked good and I thought he looked quick, had a good burst on all his routes. I know he's really excited to be here in training camp and get started with truly kind of a fresh start to the 2010 season.
"I know that 2009 was frustrating for him. So, I'm excited for him."
Gonzalez's return gives the Colts significant depth at the wide receiver position, a spot where the Colts have not only Gonzalez and four-time Pro Bowl selection Wayne, but Collie – who emerged as a consistent player in the slot after being selected in the fourth round of the 2009 NFL Draft – and third-year veteran Pierre Garcon, who developed last season into a solid big-play threat.
"There is going to be good healthy competition at the wide receiver position all across the board," Manning said. "All those guys are going to make a big impact for our team this year."
Said Caldwell, "We have an offense that certainly spreads the ball around quite a bit and we need as many options as we can possibly have. Over the years that has boded well for us. Obviously, (tight end) Dallas (Clark) is in that mix as well along with the wide receivers that we have.
"I think there will be plenty of time to catch the ball and do something with it after they catch it."
With Gonzalez out much of last season, Garcon – a third-year veteran from Mount Union – started on the outside, catching 47 passes for 765 regular-season yards and four touchdowns. Collie caught 60 passes for 676 yards and seven touchdowns.
With Wayne catching 100 passes for 1,264 yards and 10 touchdowns, the Colts next season could return one of their deepest groups of wide receivers in the last decade. Gonzalez, who caught 94 passes for 1,240 yards in his first two NFL seasons, played extensively in the slot and outside as a rookie, then played mostly in the slot in 2008.
"It's got to be the best in the league," Clark said of the group. "There are a lot of guys that can make a lot of big plays at any point. There are a lot of good threats and everyone has a different tangible that they bring. Especially the young guys with the experience last year, it's only going to make them better. Having that experience underneath them and then them coming back just a little fresher and their heads aren't spinning trying to learn all this stuff, so it is coming to them a little easier, so then they can just go out there and react and not think so much.
"It is an exciting group, and you have to go out there and prove yourself. On paper they look good, but like anything else you have to go out and prove it, and those guys are ready to do that."
As for where Gonzalez will fit into that, he said he doesn't yet know, and not only that, it's something about which he said he's not worried. The idea now, he said, is to work and continue practicing.
After that, he said the role will take care of itself.
"It's going to be what it's going to be," Gonzalez said. "All I really have control over is how I play, and that's really what my focus is. It's great for us if we're winning and everybody's rolling. It's not really a problem. It's figuring out how to make the best of a really good situation."