ON WITH THE PADS

The Colts on Tuesday held their first full-pads practice of 2010 Training Camp. 'When you get the pads, it separates the men from the boys, so to speak,' middle linebacker Gary Brackett said.

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Colts Participate in First Full-Pad Practice of 2010 Training Camp

ANDERSON, Ind. – The pads came on, and if they didn't stay on for quite as long as originally planned, Gary Brackett said this much is true, too:

Their presence gave things a different feel.

And if football practice is still football practice – and if the rains that shortened the morning session weren't exactly unwelcome for most players – Brackett said there's something special about the first day of any training camp in full pads.

And that made Tuesday morning at least a bit memorable.

"Everyone looks good in shorts and helmets," Brackett, the Colts' starting middle linebacker and defensive captain, said late Tuesday morning between a pair of Colts 2010 Training Camp practices at Anderson University.

"When you get the pads, it separates the men from the boys, so to speak. It's good to be out there running around, hitting people. That's what football's all about."

The Colts, after reing to camp Sunday, worked in shorts Monday morning, then in "shells" – helmets and shoulder pads – on Monday afternoon. The work in full pads, while contact was still relatively limited compared to game situations, was the team's first full-padded session since last season.

The Colts practiced in organized team activities and mini-camps in the off-season, but full-pad practices aren't permitted until training camp.

"I thought we practiced extremely well for the first day in full pads," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said.

And yes, Caldwell said, he saw an added energy.

"You always do," Caldwell said. "Anytime you get those full pads on, you get guys flying around and some full contact and things of that nature. That's the object. We kind of did the progression – without pads, then shells, then full pads. I thought they adjusted well."

Second-year veteran running back Donald Brown, participating in his second NFL training camp, said while a padded practice isn't run significantly different than non-pads, there is a touch of difference when pads are worn.

"It's fun," Brown said. "It's fun putting pads on, but practice really doesn't change. It's up-tempo whether it's full pads or just helmets."

Part of the Colts' work Wednesday morning involved a goal-line drill, and running backs and linebackers also faced one another in a blocking drill.

"We were just trying to get some pass work done," Brackett said. "We pass quite a bit and (quarterback) Peyton Manning has to rely on the running backs to protect his back side. With Coach (Defensive Coordinator Larry) Coyer, we're blitzing quite a bit more, so obviously we're having to learn some moves to get to the quarterback.

"We're going against one another, trying to be careful and not getting anybody injured, but it's good, healthy competition."

The practice was cut about a half hour short by heavy rains around 10 a.m.

"You're always upset when you miss out on some practice," Brackett said, smiling.

Brackett, the Colts' defensive captain since 2006 and a starter since 2005, said he's optimistic about the coming season for one of the reasons the team has won six of the past seven AFC South titles.

"There's no complacency," he said. "Guys never rest on their laurels, never say, 'This is what we did last year.' We don't expect teams to come out there and lie down for us. We know that doesn't occur. We dictate the pace, and every week we play against the Indianapolis Colts.

"We're our worst critics. We dictate our success and when we're playing our game the way we're capable of playing, we're a tough team to beat."

Brackett said that's an approach many of the Colts' veterans take, from Manning to wide receiver Reggie Wayne, to defensive ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney, to center Jeff Saturday.

"Across the board, guys out here want to get better," Brackett said. "If the coach tells you to follow your captains, follow your leaders and those guys are out there trying to get better, you have no choice but to get better.

"We really don't have guys who take it easy in practice. Guys really get after it. Guys see that, from rookies to 10-year guys, and that makes us a better team."

Also on Tuesday, defensive end Jerry Hughes – the team's first-round selection in the 2010 NFL Draft – participated in his first full practice of training camp. He arrived on Monday after signing his contract late Monday morning and joined the team during Monday afternoon practice.

Hughes led the nation in sacks as a junior at Texas Christian.

"Obviously, this is not the first time we've seen him," Caldwell said. "We've seen him all spring and I can tell you he's coming along. He's making real good progress. He's learning. There's a lot to learn. It's a very difficult position to play and play well.

"He has a couple of guys in front of him (Mathis and Freeney) who will set a good example for him."

Caldwell reiterated a point he made during organized team activities in the spring that the addition of Hughes, "certainly does provide a little more flexibility for us primarily because of the fact that now we have three rushers."

"There would be a scheme in which we could put all three of them on the field at the same time," Caldwell said. "There is some flexibility there."

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