INDIANAPOLIS – Any rookie going through his first OTA practice with veterans (no pads or live contact) is going to go through an adjustment phase.
Erik Swoope, the club's free agent tight end who is trying to convert from college basketball to the NFL, is no different.
"My first technical practice would have been in rookie camp, but this is much faster with the veterans," said Swoope. "I'm really trying to think on the fly.
"I've been studying hard. That's just the beginning. I have to study much harder to make sure I can get out there and compete with those guys."
The final day of Rookie Mini Camp!
Swoope's story is not uncommon in the NFL, and his preparation to this point is anything but short-sighted.
Swoope's athleticism at power forward drew notice at the University of Miami from at least one NFL team. His school trainer thought his play resembled that of Jimmy Graham, who left the Hurricanes and has forged a solid career with New Orleans.
Swoope sought Graham's counsel, along with that of former Hurricane linebacker Jonathan Vilma. He thought both could convey what he would encounter in the NFL.
"I had met him (Graham) before (during) my freshman year and had an acquaintance-type relationship," said Swoope. "Getting a chance to speak with him and talk about what his passion is now was a new learning experience.
"Getting a chance to work out with them and just listen to different things about how they carry themselves was a blessing."
Swoope signed with the Colts one day after the draft concluded, and he observed the culture for a few days before the five-practice rookie camp started two weeks ago.
With Indianapolis being among 25 teams starting OTAs Tuesday, Swoope put theory into practice on a full scale.
"It was faster and more aggressive. We're trying to protect one another, but understanding that we're out there competing and working hard," said Graham. "Getting used to the speed, it makes you want to push yourself. Some of the reads are much easier when everyone's going full-go like (in OTAs)."
Every rookie should have more study work than actual practice time. Swoope has not let his studies suffer.
"Pretty much just about any and every moment I'm awake," said Swoope of how much he is in his playbook. "If I'm not doing rehab, I may take an hour's rest. Aside from that, it's study, study, study and watch film, just anything to try to help me catch up with the rest of the guys.
"When I first got here, I didn't know anything. I had only gotten in a three- and two-point stance maybe a couple of times. All the things from the basics, just putting on a helmet, I felt I've made some solid progress. I understand this is just a starting point. I think I'm on the right track. I just have to continue to push myself to learn."
Swoope says he is past the butterfly stage, even now when the full units are working against each other for the first sessions. Swoope feels things becoming second nature.
"Slowly, slowly. It's getting there," said Swoope. "With the reads with the guys going full speed, you see what you were supposed to be doing against air. Now it makes more sense, 'Okay, this is why this works. This is why you're supposed to have an outside release.'
"I'm trying to be relaxed, trying to be comfortable and trust the gifts God gave me, but understanding it is a big learning process."
To a large degree, Swoope is encountering the same development Trent Richardson did last year with the Colts.
Though Richardson played football since his formative years, he was learning an Indianapolis offense on the fly in week three after a trade.
Richardson is finding his first Colts off-season a time for conceptual growth. Swoope is doing that while orienting himself with the specifics of football.
"I think it's a little bit of both," said Swoope. "Seeing the concepts, seeing the vets run the concepts, getting a chance to ask questions, talk to my coaches, that's been helping. The rookies getting a chance to get out there and doing extra work as well – getting used to blocking, stances and starts – it's the right kind of progress going into my first real experience of being a football player.
"So far, I'm still just trying to get the swing of the offense. I've had a little interaction with a variety of defensive guys, but no one really in particular. I'm still trying to get what the swings of my reads are on offense before I learn the defense."