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Colts return for offseason program aiming to turn continuity into growth in 2024

The Colts' offseason program begins Monday and runs through early June, providing the team a chance to build upon the foundation they built during Shane Steichen's first year as head coach in 2023. 

The last time the Colts were collectively at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, the sting of the abrupt end to the 2023 season was still fresh.

It's been a little over three months since the Houston Texans knocked the Colts out of playoff contention on the first Saturday night of the new year at Lucas Oil Stadium. By design, not much has changed in terms of the makeup of coaches and players who will get to work this week as the voluntary NFL offseason program begins on Monday.

The Colts poured plenty of resources into keeping their own, re-signing several players in free agency, including their top wide receiver (Michael Pittman Jr.) and several key pieces on defense (Grover Stewart, Tyquan Lewis, Taven Bryan, Kenny Moore II, Julian Blackmon, Ronnie Harrison Jr.).

All those players, in addition to the returning pillars of this team, were here in 2023 as head coach Shane Steichen set expectations for his team. They know what to expect from their head coach, as well as a coaching staff that remained largely intact from last year.

And now, with all that continuity, it's time to build.

"They know the standards that have been set in place," Steichen said. "Obviously we're going to have a couple new faces that are coming in. We'll go over those standards and pillars again and make sure everyone understands what we're trying to get done in the 2024 season. But I say this every year — every year is a new year. We need to start from ground one and build this thing back up again."

The first phase of the voluntary offseason program will last two weeks and consists only of meetings and strength and conditioning work. Phase two then runs for three weeks, which can include walkthrough-speed drills (though offense vs. defense drills are not permitted).

Phase three runs for the final four weeks of the offseason program and will include organized team activity (OTA) practices, as well as a mandatory veteran minicamp. All other offseason program activities are voluntary for players to attend.

In the middle of all this will be the 2024 NFL Draft, which takes place April 25-27. The Colts will conduct a rookie minicamp in mid-May and then can begin assimilating those drafted and undrafted players into OTAs later in the month.

A good chunk of the new faces on the Colts' 2024 roster will come from the draft, which is part of the plan for a team that spent cash and cap space to plug holes in free agency with its own players. And when those youngsters arrive in Indianapolis, they'll join a team with established, high standards that can be enforced and reinforced by a coaching staff and locker room that understands each other.

"I think any time you can keep continuity in your own players is a good thing," general manager Chris Ballard said. "It's not a bad thing. Because you know what you're getting in the player. It's always easy to look outside and think, automatically, that no doubt this guy's going to be an upgrade. But there's usually a reason they hit free agency."

While the Colts are largely running it back with the same team and coaching staff it had in 2023 – with a major exception in the return of quarterback Anthony Richardson – they're not looking to be the same team they were last year. With continuity comes an expectation of growth, and the nascent stages of that growth process begin Monday on 56th Street.

"When you have your system in place, it helps big time, especially with the players understanding the verbiage and terminology," Steichen said. "But really trying to stay on the cutting edge of things, because this league is always changing. So if we can do that and build on what we did last year, I'll be excited for the 2024 season."

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