Manning, Brackett Speak to Colts Rookies at 2010 Rookie Mini-Camp
INDIANAPOLIS – The moment was a memorable one.
At the very least, it's one the Colts' 2010 rookie class likely won't forget. Not soon, anyway.
But as much as the moment was a big one for the Colts' eight-member 2010 NFL Draft Class and other players participating in the rookie mini-camp, hearing from Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and middle linebacker Gary Brackett on Friday morning was much more than ceremonial.
Their words had a message.
And that was that the rookies are in the NFL now, and around the Colts, they're not just trying to make a team, they're going to be needed, too.
"They came into a rookie meeting and told us to come out there and work hard," Jerry Hughes, a defensive end from the Texas Christian University and the Colts' first-round selection in the April 22-24 NFL Draft, said Friday.
The veterans' message, Hughes said, was "that they expected to win, and for us to work hard and do our best."
"That just show they care about the team and the character this team has," Hughes said. "They just talked about the Colts' organization. This is a great organization and they expect to win here.
"And in order to win, you've got to come in day in and day out and just work hard."
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said Manning and Brackett, captains of the offense and defense, respectively, for the last several seasons, approached him and asked to address the rookies.
"It was actually something they wanted to do on their own," Caldwell said. "I think they looked at the situation and said, 'Hey coach, do you mind if we talk a little bit and give them, from our vantage point, what we expect?'
"When you have a veteran-laden team, like we do, one of the things you can't be is afraid to allow them to speak their mind and to take on a position of leadership. It was a great thing."
Manning's presence at the meeting resonated with the rookies.
"It shows you how much he's respected around here," said Brody Eldridge, a tight end from Oklahoma University and a fifth-round selection. "He's your teammate, but yet you have respect him as a coach."
Eldridge said Manning was everything he anticipated and "maybe a little more."
"He walked in like he had been with us forever," Eldridge said. "He respected us, too, as soon as we got here, so it was pretty neat. . . . It was really neat. That's Peyton Manning, someone you've been watching forever. That was pretty neat.
"He just told us the imance of contributing to the team and how much we're needed. We're not just rookies and we have to step up."
The speech was only part of a first day of the three-day rookie mini-camp, in which the Colts emphasize getting as much information to the players as possible in a short period of time.
The Colts do no evaluation during the period, and no veterans with extensive experience participate, but because it's the first day of professional football, several rookies said there were moments when they were just trying to realize they were really in the NFL.
"You just have to accomplish all you can," Eldridge said. "You take in everything and try to learn as much as you can. You can't be too stressful on yourself."
Part of Brackett's message to the players focused on those who – as he did in 2003 – signed with the Colts as a collegiate free agent. The Colts have a reputation as a team that offers free agents a legitimate chance to make the roster, and Brackett told rookies it's more than reputation.
"Talking to Gary Brackett and talking to a lot of guys who didn't get drafted, they've been really successful here," said cornerback Brandon King, who signed as a free agent from Purdue University. "They don't care, period. It doesn't matter what you play. As long as you can play football and you go in and give your best effort, they have a spot for you."
The Colts' rookies late Friday afternoon met with the media, and when they did, they spoke of a long, memorable first day. Many spoke of mistakes and of the need to study the playbook extensively in the next few weeks to be ready to return for organized team activities in two weeks.
They also spoke of the day being like their first day of college or high school, and of the feeling of adapting to a familiar game at an unfamiliar level.
But mostly they talked about a meeting in the morning when they heard from two starters, one of they had watched – and in some cases, idolized – practically since they began playing football.
"It was a great moment," Caldwell said. "Obviously, Peyton and Gary did a tremendous job with them. They have done things the right way around here. They are also guys that are very, very accomplished at what they do. I think it was a unique moment for those guys.
"You could kind of see them all sit up in their seat when the two of them walked in. It was great because what those two guys do is set a great standard for us, and I was glad they were able to communicate that to our young guys."