Twenty-Two Rookies to Start Three-Day Minicamp Friday
INDIANAPOLIS - The message, Bill Polian said, will be clear.
The 22 rookies recently acquired by the Colts will reto the team's practice facility Friday for the first time, then will spend the weekend at a three-day rookie camp designed to allow them to acclimate, learn and prepare.
When it begins, Polian – in his 11th season as the Colts' President – said they will receive two messages. One, that they will have every chance regardless of background or draft status to make the 53-man roster. The other, Polian said, is equally important:
College is over. The NFL Draft is over.
All that matters as far as the Colts are concerned is the future.
Starting right now.
"This is the real world," Polian said, discussing what the rookies will be told at the beginning of the team's 2008 rookie camp at the team's practice facility Friday.
"All that took place on draft day, and before that, is the phony world of the draft. This is now the real world of the NFL. It doesn't have to do with marketing and it doesn't have to do with seminars on how to be a better person.
"All that stuff is fine and dandy at the appropriate time, but this is about competing for a job in the National Football League."
The Colts this past weekend drafted nine rookies, then signed 13 more as collegiate free agents. All are expected to attend the rookie camp.
As has been the case in each of the past two seasons, this weekend's camp will be limited to rookies and a few first-year players. The three-day mini-camp will end Sunday, after which rookies may not return until mid-May.
Then, they will attend the team's mandatory minicamp, which will be followed by the team's 14 organized team activities.
"This is really an introductory period for the rookies," Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said. "We made this change a couple of years ago and it has been good, to just bring them up for a few days. They have the attention of the whole coaching staff. It's just an introduction: 'Here's how we do things. Here's our terminology.' It's a very, very slow pace.
"They can go home and kind of digest that for two weeks while we work with the veteran guys and get them going. Then, we put it all back together two weeks from now.
"It has been a good process for us."
The Colts made the move two years ago, after Polian read about a similar structure used by Bill Parcells, now the executive vice president of football operations with the Miami Dolphins and then the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
"We very frankly borrowed it from Bill Parcells, who outlined it in his book a couple of years ago," Polian said. "After reading it, I gave it to Tony and said, 'This really makes perfect sense to me, in terms of how they structured it, what they did and what their aims and objectives were.'
"What we're trying to do is make sure we give them a thorough rundown of what we're about on and off the field, then get them to a point where they're able to come in and not compete right away in summer school, but at least know what they're doing, have a semblance of knowing what they're doing."
Having that semblance is more important this year than before, Polian said, with the NFL having implemented a rule allowing teams to take only 80 players to training camp.
"The 80-man roster presents a problem this year that has not existed before in that there will be competition all the way through summer, because you can only go to camp with 80," Polian said. "I don't like that. I think that's wrong. It doesn't provide for the best possible training camp you could have, but that's the way it is."
Dungy, too, said he dislikes the change, and said he argued against it at the recent NFL Owners Meetings. Dungy said it will reduce opportunity for teams to adequately evaluate rookie free agents.
"Everybody said, 'You'll just have to adjust your practices and coaches will do that,' " Dungy said, "but the point I tried to make to them was that we go to the Super Bowl (following the 2006 season) with guys like (rookie free agents) Ben Utecht, Gary Brackett, Terrence Wilkins, Josh Thomas and Aaron Moorehead. With this 80-man limit, I don't know if they all get to camp.
"We'll tailor it and cut down on the injuries and all of that, but it's going to force us to decide, 'Is this rookie free agent better than the guys we have here? Can he help us more? What are his chances of helping us?'
"You're going to have to make those decisions much faster and you're not going to be right as often."
In previous years, Dungy and Polian have said the process of evaluating players didn't begin until training camp. Dungy said that's no longer possible.
"It is going to be a little quicker evaluation period," Dungy said. "You do have to find out what guys can do and make some decisions before we go to training camp. That's unfortunate, but that's the way it is. You don't have as many guys. (Before), you have some guys you keep – an extra person at a certain position – because you like the potential of two or three guys. We can't really afford to do that. Our numbers are pretty well going to be set by just being able to make it through camp with this number of guys.
"I was not a fan, nor was Bill, but that's what we have to work with."
The Colts this past weekend used their lone first-day selection to take Arizona State guard/center Mike Pollak in the second round, then selected eight players the following day: Georgia Tech inside linebacker Philip Wheeler (third round), Kentucky tight end Jacob Tamme (fourth), Georgia defensive end Marcus Howard (fifth), Virginia tight end Tom Santi (sixth), Wake Forest center Steve Justice (sixth), Michigan running back Mike Hart (sixth) and Mount Union wide receiver Pierre Garcon (sixth) and Buffalo center Jamey Richard (seventh).
On Tuesday, they announced the signings of the 13 free agents:
Rudy Burgess, wide receiver, Arizona State; Dan Davis, defensive tackle, Connecticut; Charles Dillon, wide receiver, Washington State; Colin Ferrell, defensive tackle, Kent State; Brandon Foster, defensive back, Texas; Eric Foster, defensive tackle, Rutgers; Sam Giguere, wide receiver, Sherbrooke (Can.) College; Curtis Johnson, defensive end, Clark College; Darren Marquez, offensive tackle, Southern Illinois; Jordan Senn, linebacker, Portland State; Jamie Silva, defensive back, Boston College; Chad Simpson, running back, Morgan State; and Adam Tafralis, quarterback, San Jose State.
"From Mike Pollack on down to the last guy who was signed, they're all equal," Polian said. "They're going to come in and they're going to get coached the same way. The same thing is expected of them. They'll be judged the same way.
"For us, this is the first time we get them and get an opportunity to say, 'Anything that happened before this – including your college career – doesn't count. Now, it's what you do here.' We make that very clear to them. All the ephemeral stuff falls away and now it's about winning a job in the National Football League and performing at a winning level in the National Football League.
"It starts this weekend and when I read Bill's book – like most everything he does – it made so much sense to begin that process with them alone and explain to them, 'This now is the real world. This is what you're getting into. This is what you need to do.'''