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Indianapolis Colts

Locker Room Culture Change Needed? Not with Colts.

A stated league initiative for 2014 is having positive locker room environments for 32 teams. Do the Colts need to change a business mode? To hear players tell it, what exists in Indianapolis should be a league model.





INDIANAPOLIS – When Ulrick John was drafted out of Georgia State, he wondered about the environment where he was heading.

The draft's 232nd choice from Hinesville, Georgia has found comfort in his new home.

"It's been a pleasant surprise," said John.  "No one has treated me unfairly.  This is a very positive environment. 

"From day one, the vets took rookies in, and they help us out as much as they can.  If we have a question, all we have to do is ask.  There's never any kind of problems with them helping us learn.  I've been very happy with how guys conduct themselves."

The Colts offense is back on the practice field working to improve on a great 2013 season.

The NFL is focusing efforts to ensure a proper business mode in all locker rooms. 

The Colts historically have been welcoming on that front and in 2012, Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano openly and forcefully mentioned the critical important of relationship-building with every player.  A proper locker room speeds the process.

"That starts with Chuck's message to the team on a daily basis from the day he arrived," said Grigson.  "It trickles down to the coaches and our pillar players, who have all been great stewards of that message in the classroom and locker room. 

"Everyone is all-in here from top-to-bottom."

Instituting the words 'Trust, Loyalty & Respect' around the club's iconic logo and attracting players with those attributes have helped allow the Colts be the NFL's only team without consecutive regular-season losses from 2012-13. 

"It's a great locker room," said Jerrell Freeman, a Grigson CFL import who has topped the team in tackles twice since arriving.  "We have great leaders, first of all.  There are no egos.   We understand we need (rookies) as much as they need us.  We're like-minded working toward the same goal.

"It's very welcoming.  From top-to-bottom it doesn't matter, you're part of the family – that's top-to-bottom."

Jack Mewhort, the club's 2014 top choice, has called the environment "awesome" and sees reasons for the winning culture.

With the New York Giants, Ahmad Bradshaw has tasted the championship fruits Mewhort and others entering the NFL hope to sample.  Titles are grounded in proper culture.

"There's really no difference (between the Colts and Giants)," said Bradshaw.  "It all comes from the organization (and) how they are to their players.  Here, they're top of the line.  You can't beat it."

Andrew Luck was Grigson's and Pagano's first-ever draft pick, so he was afforded every possible advantage in his new setting. 

Luck lauds the only place he ever has known, while others who came to Indianapolis from other NFL outposts see the operating nature here.


"You can't give players all the credit.  You have to start with Ryan and Chuck," said Gosder Cherilus.  "They knew the kind of guys they wanted, and they did a good job of bringing them in. 

"I felt like I was back at Boston College with the type of chemistry and guys we have and how much fun we have playing for each other.  We have one of the best locker rooms in the NFL.  When you treat guys like grown men, it's hard for them not to treat themselves the same way.  He (Pagano) treats us first class.  It pays off."

Like John, Montori Hughes (Tennessee-Martin) did not arrive in the draft from a large college.  Hughes was met in a big-time manner in the bigs.

"Last year when I was a rookie, guys took me under their wing.  I soaked everything in," said Hughes.  "Talking with guys on other teams, this is a good atmosphere here.

"I tell rookies, 'Take it in just like I do.'  That's what I try to do for them every day.  It helps the team as a whole.  It's easier to get on the field or in practice to make everyone else better.  I'm happy to come to work every day.  I'm lucky to be drafted by a good organization."

Arthur Jones arrived in March from another famously-noted player-building organization in Baltimore.

"It's nothing but family here.  This locker room is awesome," said Jones. "Guys in the locker room, there's no one bigger than the team here.  There's no bullying, no hazing, nothing crazy.  It's a bunch of guys who are passionate and love football.

"It starts with the GM.  It's the passion he has to bring guys in who want to win.  It starts with the owner, who brought the GM in.  It's a rainfall and trickles down.  There are so many great people in this organization who get it, who really understand what a championship program should be about."

Said Grigson, "The (players) that haven't bought in stick out like a sore thumb, which is the type of culture we wanted to achieve in the first place.  

"That type of environment just makes everyone's job easier and allows us to focus that much more collectively on our goal."

Grigson's players get it and do it.  It does not ensure winning, but it stacks the odds.

"You really see why certain organizations win, just off of the culture of the team," said Da'Rick Rogers.

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