First Season Around Colts Helped DL John Gill "A Tremendous Amount"
INDIANAPOLIS – He isn't close to being the Colts' most experienced defensive lineman.
But John Gill does have enough experience – a year around the Colts and a few games on the field at the NFL level – to feel like having that experience can't help but help him next season.
He knows more of the playbook.
And he knows more about expectations.
All in all, he said, just knows more about the Colts.
And that, the second-year defensive lineman said recently, certainly can't hurt – first in his attempt to make the roster for a second consecutive season, and then in his attempt to be able to contribute to the defense and to the team.
"It's helped me a tremendous amount," Gill said during the Colts' 2010 organized team activities, which concluded in early June at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
"I know the play book. I know the techniques. And I know what's expected around here in terms of preparation and work ethic. It gives me a big advantage.
"Coming into my second year now, I know how things are supposed to be done."
Gill didn't have such an edge as a rookie last season.
And yet, he not only spent the season around the team, he was signed from the practice squad in late December, playing in two regular-season games and staying on the roster through the post-season.
He finished the season with five tackles, two solos, in the two games.
Gill, a free agent from Northwestern University, said his story in that sense isn't unlike that of several Colts players over the last decade. The team, since the arrival of Colts President Bill Polian in 1998, has developed a reputation as one on which free-agent rookies and other relatively unknown players are given legitimate opunity to make the roster.
Former players such as running back Dominic Rhodes and defensive end Josh Thomas made the roster that way, as did current Colts starters and contributors such as middle linebacker Gary Brackett, safety Melvin Bullitt and cornerback Jacob Lacey.
"It's incredibly important," Gill said. "I wasn't drafted. People knew who I was, but I was by no means a big name. There are a ton of people like that, a ton of guys who come out undrafted.
"Really, nobody knows who they are."
Opportunity for undrafted free agents has been a critical part of the Colts' roster-building philosophy for a decade, and Gill said it's a philosophy that benefits team and players.
"A team like that, who takes chances on players like that, it can really pay off for the team," Gill said. "They might find somebody who everybody else has overlooked. It's great for those players, because they really get opportunities to show what they can do."
It also, Gill said, serves to motivate young, unknown players who are on the roster. Given a real chance to contribute and make a roster, he said effort, focus and intensity remains high when it might not on other teams.
"If there's no chance of having an opportunity to play, what's the point?" he said. "When you come somewhere like here, where you know you're going to get the chance, you want to work that much harder and be that much more prepare."
When it comes to knowing what that means – i.e., when it comes to knowing if he improved, and if the work led to proper preparation – Gill said knowing how to judge himself in that area is difficult in his current situation. Whereas in college he played extensively enough to measure progress based on performance in games, in the NFL, playing relatively sparingly has meant judging himself by a different standard.
"It is hard, when you don't really have that way of comparing yourself," he said. "But you try to work through whatever you can – the workouts, practice – to try to show that you can do it, that you can make plays. You try to take advantage of every opportunity you have."
Doing that last season eventually meant a roster spot and late-season playing time.
"That (preparation) comes in a lot of different forms – workouts, practice, just doing the right things," he said. "Eventually, you get that shot and then you have to be ready for it."
And Gill said while he got a late-season shot as a rookie, he said the idea now is to move deeper into the Colts' line rotation. To do so, he said improvement is necessary, and to Gill, that's less about improving significant areas and more about addressing issues on and off the field.
"For me, it really is everything," Gill said. "It's hard to pick one thing. I want to be the very best in every aspect of the game I can. I want to show that I'm willing to work,.
"I'm not just trying to improve on he field. I want to show I know how to work, making good decisions and stuff like that, so really, I want to improve everything, show them I'm a pro."