Colts Rookie Defensive End Jerry Hughes Joins Team on First Day of 2010 Training Camp
ANDERSON, Ind. – Without question, this is where he wanted to be.
Jerry Hughes, a defensive end selected by the Colts in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, missed the team's first practice of 2010 Training Camp Monday morning, but by late morning, he knew where he would be that afternoon:
In Anderson, practicing with his new team.
Hughes, the last unsigned player in the 2010 Colts rookie class, signed with the team on Monday, then reed to camp in time to join the Colts for their afternoon session at Anderson University.
"It was great," Hughes said late Monday afternoon after the second of two practices at 2010 Colts Training Camp. "Just to finally be on the field, it felt great. Now it's back to playing football."
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell had indicated early in the day Hughes would report to the team by the afternoon.
"(General Manager) Chris (Polian) and (President) Bill (Polian) and those guys did a great job getting it all together," Caldwell said.
Hughes, who spent the weekend at an Indianapolis hotel, drove to Anderson Monday, and signed his contract. He said he was relieved to have the process done.
"I was just waiting and going over the playbook," Hughes said. "That's one thing I wanted to do, was make sure I had a grip on it. That way, I wasn't going to show up and be behind all together. . . .
"It's done. It's finished with. Now I've got to look forward to playing football and helping the Colts win however possible."
Hughes joined the team after the second practice had begun.
"I stretched, warmed up and came out here," he said.
Said Caldwell, "It's that time of year. We don't have any time to waste."
While some NFL rookies hold out for extended period, Hughes said his objective from the time the Colts made him the No. 31 overall selection in the April 2010 NFL Draft was to report early in training camp.
"That was my goal was from the start, to stay here and be with the team," Hughes said. "That way I could learn from them and learn from those guys."
He said he communicated that with his agent.
"Absolutely," he said. "I wanted to come in and get it done."
Hughes, who led the nation in sacks as a junior at Texas Christian University, started two seasons in college, playing reserve as a freshman and sophomore before registering 15 sacks as a junior, then 11.5 more as a senior.
When the Colts selected him in April, Bill Polian said it addressed a long-standing issue: the need for a third pass rusher to complement Pro Bowl defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Caldwell said during organized team activities in May and June that Hughes could play a role not only as a reserve defensive end, but in situations in which Freeney and Mathis were already on the field.
Hughes spent OTAs with the team in Indianapolis, but said the coming weeks will be the first time he has had a chance to spend extensive time around Freeney and Mathis.
"It will be the first time I'm able to be with them both and see how they operate during the season," Hughes said. "I'll just learn from them as I grow. . . . I just see it that I have a great opportunity. I'll be able to pick their brain and stuff like that and just learn and get a feel for how it's done.
"I just want to learn my position, get familiar with and learn the defense. It's a big playbook and the next couple of weeks, I just want to take my time, learn the defense and the scheme of things. I just want to learn the position. Freeney and Rob Mathis are two guys that play the position fantastic.
"They're great All-Pro guys and guys who I can learn the position from."
While Hughes missed the first practice, he said he studied throughout the Colts' organized team activities, and continued studying during the time leading to training camp.
"Getting the playbook in my hand and being able to go through it night in and night out helped out tremendously," he said. "I've got everything finished now, and now I can focus on playing football and learning how to play the position from two great guys, Freeney and Mathis.
"I know it's a matter of time. The main thing I wanted to focus on was making sure I was in shape and learning my playbook. I felt like if I could do those two, I'd be all right."