Colts Players Know The Importance Of Hard Work In The Offseason
INDIANAPOLIS – As Dallas Clark sees it, there isn't much that can be done to rattle Peyton Manning.
"He could have one leg and he'd be driven," Clark joked.
Heading into his 12th NFL season, the Colts quarterback is enjoying his injury-free offseason. After spending last training camp sidelined while recovering from knee surgery, Manning is setting the tempo for the team's organized team activities in hopes of reaching the playoffs for an eighth consecutive season.
As usual, Manning got a jumpstart on things, taking to the practice field early Tuesday morning to throw ball-after-ball to rookies Donald Brown and Austin Collie.
Like he has done for so many years with Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, Manning worked with the two players on mastering "three or four of our most basic routes," rather than running them through the entire playbook.
Manning said the individual sessions help acclimate new players to the offense and gives him the confidence to throw to them during the season.
"You just don't know when it's going to come to fruition," he said.
Last year, it happened in Week 14 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
With the defense heavily hovering around Manning's usual targets, the Colts quarterback turned to second-year tight end Gijon Robinson.
While Robinson only had seven career receptions heading into the game, his individual sessions with Manning in the offseason gave the Colts quarterback the confidence and the comfort to go to him when he was open.
It started with a short dump-off pass to Robinson in the first quarter that earned nine yards and a first down.
Two plays later, Manning dropped back and found Robinson again down the left side for 13 yards.
And then again. And again. And again.
"All of a sudden, (Robinson) has eight catches and Dallas (Clark) is wondering what is going on," Manning said with a smile.
With a slew of new faces running routes and on the receiving end of Manning's passes, the Colts are counting on their work in May leading to breakout performances in the fall.
"We hope (these workouts) pay off for these young guys somewhere in the course of the season," Manning said.
Clark echoed his quarterback's sentiments, explaining that OTAs and mini-camps are "when you get better as a team…it's such a crucial time of the year, it can't be taken for granted."
"During the season, it's just go, go, go. You don't have time to break things down," Clark said. "But now, you really have time to get on the same page and know each other's thoughts and understand everyone's problems on a certain play."
With the players pad-less and primarily lifting weights and running, Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said this time of the year is more of a "learning process" and "getting a real good sense of how we do things and what we do."
So far, the Colts new head coach has been impressed.
"Overall, from learning and developing, these guys seem to learn quickly. They seem to be very diligent in terms of their work habits. They seem to be very detailed-oriented. I think that's going to serve well for them in terms of putting themselves in position to help our team."
Colts Defensive End Dwight Freeney said that with a new defensive coordinator at the helm, it's more important than ever to have everyone working together during the summer.
"We're learning a new style, but (it's also important) to have the whole group together and trying to learn this thing from the beginning," he said. "We get used to each other, (Defensive Coordinator Larry Coyer) can get used to me, and I can get used to him and the way he likes to coach."
Clark said that while he's sad to see some of his old teammates and coaches go, he's been excited about the new people brought on board.
"We're looking to get this thing going," he said. "The rookies are as wide-eyed as ever, and these weeks are as crucial as ever to get their feet wet and get them introduced to the system. It's nothing like college anymore, and they're learning it one day at a time."
One piece of advice Clark has given his rookie teammates is to not get frustrated about making a mistake. Instead, he's told them to focus on not making the same mistake twice.
On Tuesday, Colts first-round draft pick Donald Brown evaluated his progress so far.
"It was tough at first grasping the concepts, but each day I'm getting more comfortable with it," he said. "As long as I don't make the same mistakes twice, I'll be alright."
Sounds like he's listening.