INDIANAPOLIS – On Wednesday, the Colts held the ninth of 10 organized team activity (OTA) practices, with one more to follow on Thursday.
Each on-field session is a chance for improvement, and Head Coach Chuck Pagano has seen his team progress throughout spring practice. Pagano and his staff direct work that involves most of the 90-man roster. The aim of the sessions is to build understanding of new schemes and allow players to grow competitively and as teammates.
The OTAs have been conducted during three of the past four weeks. It is an environment the new head coach wants to keep positive.
"We had another productive day. Guys continue to work extremely hard," said Pagano. "They're adjusting to everything we're giving them. We're making progress, and they're working the process. I am extremely pleased with where we're at.
"We try to make it fun. It's hard. It's a grind. They're working extremely hard. They've been here for quite some time now. It's still a kid's game. You try to make it as fun as possible and have a good time. I love the sprit and camaraderie part of it."
All coaches want their teams to improve practice after practice. Though a controlled environment without pads and contact, OTA sessions remain a period of evaluation. Learning is expected and pressure is at the most minimal level possible in the NFL. Pagano keeps a discerning eye on the proceedings.
"Every day that we're out here, it just keeps getting better and better and better," said Pagano. "You can walk out of a practice and it's like a game. Win or lose, you come out of it saying, 'Until you look at the tape, it's never really as good as you think it is and it's never really as bad as you think it is.' Every day that we go in and evaluate the tape and watch the guys, we're seeing progress. I'm very pleased where we're at."
Pagano and everyone else inside the organization, along with those who follow the club, are keeping an eye on the immediate future – that being the return next week of quarterback Andrew Luck. The first pick in the draft, Luck has been completing academic work at Stanford.
Luck and the full squad will undergo a three-day mini-camp next week. Pagano will welcome his new pupil back with open arms, and all fingers will point Luck to the field where his new teammates await his arrival.
"It will be great," said Pagano of Luck's return. "It will be great for Andrew as far as getting in here, getting in the locker room, getting back with the offense, getting the timing down with the receivers, all those kinds of things. It's going to be super to have him back."
Luck went through a rookie camp on May 4-6. He was issued a playbook and study materials, but the club has not had contact with him while he completed his Stanford workload.
The rookie camp did not include all the targets he will be working with during the season, and Reggie Wayne, the second-leading receiver in franchise history, anticipates getting acclimated with his new field leader.
"I have not, I have not," said Wayne of if he has worked with Luck to this point, "but he'll be here soon. I wish we could have had the opportunity to hook up, but we weren't able to do that. We have a short time period. We have to get it together next week for mini-camp. We'll have to find time to get some work in between mini-camp and training camp. We have some work to do."
Wayne broke in as a rookie in 2001 with Peyton Manning starting his fourth year under center for Indianapolis. The duo combined for 779 completions for 10,602 yards and 67 touchdowns over 10 seasons, and now Wayne will help christen a heralded rookie. It is an opportunity he relishes.
"I'm ready. As a receiver, obviously you want your main quarterback to be there," said Wayne. "At the same time, it doesn't matter who is throwing. Your job is going to be the same, that's to catch the ball. I'm just like (everyone), I want to see what he can do. I want to see if he can throw. We know he can throw a college ball. We don't know if he can throw a pro ball yet. We'll find out next week. I'm just as excited to see him as (everyone)."
Fourth-year pro Austin Collie joined a potent Indianapolis offense in 2009 that helped the team jump to a 14-0 start. Collie also will help Luck adapt to the NFL. It will take a period of adjustment, and the work time together will be important.
"(I'm) eager, I'm excited," said Collie. "I think all us receivers are chomping at the bit just because it is such an integral part of what we do, as far as timing, getting to know each other and being on the same page. It's going to be fun having him here and to get to work. I'm excited. I think it takes a while (to get acclimated). We're going to have to take advantage the time we have off after the mini-camp. We have to make sure that we're getting it (the work) in."
Collie is like Wayne in that he has not worked with Luck yet on the field. Out west recently, Collie had the chance to visit with Luck. He noticed that Luck was looking forward to returning to Indianapolis to start his next career phase.
"You can tell he is (eager to get back)," said Collie. "I don't want to say he is miserable, but you can tell it is bugging him that he's not here, and it should. That's the type of player he is. He wants to be here with the team working, getting close with the guys. It's probably killing him."
Luck will be under the gun just as the team has been with the coaching staff exerting an accelerated pace while introducing material. Wayne says while the players are learning, they also are demonstrating their wares to the coaches and trying to have a good time while doing so.
"Whatever happens, have fun. We've been doing that already," said Wayne. "Guys seem like they are enjoying what is going on. Everybody believes in the system. Guys are just out there having fun. Guys are trying to show the coaches what they can do. They're competing. We're all just like rookies right now. We're trying to prove ourselves.
"Right now, we're trying to grasp everything. We're throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks. We keep doing everything over and over and over until when we throw it on the wall everything sticks. Until then, we'll keep working."
In a roster move on Wednesday, Indianapolis waived offensive lineman Jake Kirkpatrick.