March Low on Profile, Big on Imance, for Colts
INDIANAPOLIS – To Tony Dungy, the coming month is a key.
The halls around the coaches' offices are far quieter than in the fall, the locker room often is empty, and there is little public attention given to the goings on at the Colts' Training Facility.
But make no mistake: There is plenty going on.
And Dungy said it is a month that will shape the team's approach to the 2008 season.
"This is one of those months where you're working on what you're going to do," said Dungy, who entered his seventh season as the Colts' head coach when the NFL's new league year began last Friday.
That, Dungy said and Colts President Bill Polian said recently, is what March is about for the Colts:
Not a lot of high-profile activity.
But a lot of important preparation and planning.
Polian, entering his 11th season with the franchise, said recently the Colts will monitor the NFL's free-agent market, but said it's unlikely the team will be a major player, particularly during the high-profile, high-priced early weeks. Six Colts players, including guard Jake Scott, became unrestricted free agents last week. As of Monday, none had signed elsewhere.
Polian said he and the personnel department will spend the month focused on the draft, which will be held in New York City on April 26-27. The most-high profile "events" of March are the so-called Pro Days, at which prospects from each school work out for NFL scouts on the respective campuses, and Polian said the Colts' scouts will attend many, finalizing information. Polian said he will spend the coming month with eight-hour days preparing for the draft with the exception of attending NFL Competition Committee and NFL Owners' Meetings.
The process of putting together the draft board will begin April 1, Polian said.
"That's a long process that involves discussion and film work, too," Polian said. "I know now where people ought to be. We have a preliminary board set now. To move a person more than a couple of spots in a round is a lengthy discussion."
Dungy said he and the coaching staff also will focus on the draft this month, but he said as important a part of March for coaches involves focusing on examining offensive and defensive approach.
"You've got a lot of projects going on simultaneously," Dungy said. "You're really trying to do all that and get your experimenting done, so when your players come in here in April – then you can start to get information to them: 'This is what we're going to do next year; here's how we're going to tweak things.'
"It's still about the team, what we need to be, what we're going to do. So much before this was looking at our players, trying to determine what you have. Now, it becomes, 'What do we want to do scheme-wise? What do we want to emphasize? What do we have to get better at? What is our off-season program? Will it be spent on third-down defense, or short-yardage and goal-line offense, or red-zone? Where do we need to improve?'
"That will be the big thing for the next probably two or three weeks."
Changes, Dungy said, must be finalized before players arrive for the off-season conditioning program on March 31.
"Once we kind of hit April, you're really zeroing in on the draft," Dungy said. "You're doing so much – some work with our players in the off-season program – but you want to have your plan in place when you hit April 1."
Dungy, who said the coaches are currently finishing the evaluation of last year's roster, said the off-season schedule has changed drastically since he first became an NFL assistant in the early 1980s. Before, he said, teams began preparation in May and June, with a heavy emphasis on training camp.
Now, he said, preparation begins earlier, making March an important month, even if it isn't a high-profile one.
"It used to be you had a lot of time to evaluate what you want to do and kind of tweak your operations end of it," Dungy said. "You'd look at the draft, then we always had a three-day mini-camp after the draft. That's when you got your information to the players, but it wasn't until that part of May where you really did anything with your veteran players."