ANDERSON –Under sunny skies and mid-70s temperatures on Friday, the Colts concluded the road portion of the 2012 training camp.
The team reported to Anderson University on July 28 and held approximately 25 practices away from its home base.
When the camp ended with a 38-yard make-it-or-keep-practicing field goal by Pat McAfee, Head Coach Chuck Pagano dismissed his team and indicated he thought the first part of training camp was a big success. The cagey coach addressed why the surprise end to camp.
"It was well-deserved. Ever since we got together from day one all the way back to the off-season program, we started phase one from the first team meeting we had until today," said Pagano. "These guys have done everything we've asked them to do. They've bought in hook, line and sinker. They've done a great job, and it was well-deserved."
The drama on if the team would hear the final whistle blow or not was drawn out when McAfee first mis-fired on a 59-yarder. Pagano had the team surround the punter/placekicker to create an audience. He was generous in giving McAfee another chance when the first effort veered wide left.
"Well, you bring them in there to let them know what we're doing because we had plays left in practice. The coaches go over the script, there were a few plays left on that script so we brought them in there just to let them know if Pat (McAfee) makes this kick, we're done for the day," said Pagano. "Obviously, you have some enthusiasm based on that.
"Some guys were cheering, some guys were on their hands and knees, 'Make sure you make it.' Some guys were saying, 'Quiet down, give him silence, let's make this kick.' I wanted to see it go through. That's why we moved it up to the 20- (yard line), not that he couldn't make that 59-yarder again. I think he just overcooked it a little bit to the left. We put it on the 20, right dead in the middle and he nailed it so it was a good way to end it."
Pagano is a player-friendly coach, but he is one who sets a demanding tone while building relationships with his troops. He joins other members of the club's leadership in liking to get away from Indianapolis for camp, and he thought the efforts by the players beyond the field made it a quite profitable time of growth.
"The most important thing (is) we've come together as a team. You lay the foundation in the off-season," said Pagano. "We've got a foundation that was built on rock and not sand. We talked about when they left (in June). I wanted them to think about becoming champions and how to serve one another, and they came back in great shape.
"Everything that we got done here is just a credit to our veteran leadership, the young guys, everybody just buying in. The culture that we're trying to create – team, team, team – it's all about the team. Everything we do is based on the team and winning, and they've done that. It's not a surprise to any of us coaches that we've had a good camp, a productive camp."
Indianapolis produced a 38-3 victory over St. Louis in the preseason opener last Sunday. Tomorrow, the team plays its first road game in a tough venue, Pittsburgh's Heinz Field. With a young team featuring just fewer than 60 players either in their rookie, first or second years, Pagano knows work must continue back in Indianapolis.
The team will take steps filled with work ethic as the rest of camp progresses. The first-year head coach knows the team still is finding things out about itself.
"We're just scratching the surface. We got a long, long way to go, and they'd be the first one to tell you," said Pagano. "What we do is take it one day at a time, one play at a time, one meeting at a time. We don't judge good or bad, what's happened, we just go onto the next play.
"Our mantra is, '60 minutes, all you got and don't judge.' Again we got a long way to go, but their attitudes are right and their work ethic is right. I'm sure we're going to get there."
The 2012 camp was the 18th held by the Colts at Anderson University. The university, door-to-door, is 48 miles from the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. It is a massive effort to move, and it is a huge undertaking by many people in the city of Anderson and at the institution. Pagano cited the wide-ranging efforts that made his team feel welcome.
"I'd like to thank the fans for coming out, (the) people of Anderson, everybody associated with the university. They've done an outstanding job. We felt like we had a really productive camp. We got a lot of things done, and it's a credit to everybody at this university. Again, the fans of the city have been awesome to help us get done what we've needed to get done."