ANDERSON –Sunday marked the first day of Chuck Pagano's on-field training camp tenure with the Indianapolis Colts.
Pagano welcomed his troops on Saturday, taking the team and organization through checkpoints pointing to getting on the field today.
Pagano joined Indianapolis on January 25. Sixteen of his 19 assistant coaches are new, as is well more than half of his 90-man roster. To set the tone, he delivered a camp-opening message.
"Just a little MMA stuff, that's all," said Pagano. "No, really it's been our mantra, since we got here. This thing is about family, and it's about serving. What I told them when they left here (in June) was, 'I don't want you to worry about anything except for two things: how to become a champion and how to serve.' I don't know when that championship will come, but when it does we'll look back on it and know exactly why it happened.
"We talk about the proper state of mind. We don't have a choice in this. Everybody's got a job to do and it's basically we can, we must and we will get the job done by any means necessary. Certainly by playing in the framework of the rules and just take it one day at a time and great things will happen because, really to be honest with you, nobody expects this team to do much. So, there might have been a little bit of that was fueled a little bit, but they're ready."
The team went through a walk-through session in the morning aimed in part at the mental approach to the game. Pagano explained the rationale of the session prior to the afternoon workout.
"It's more mental, with the way the rules are now you've got to split your practice," said Pagano. "You have four hours of grass time (a day) essentially. You can split it however you want to split it, but one of them has to be a walk-through tempo. We're not looking for intensity, we're looking for the mental part of it, how much they can take from the meetings last night, the meetings this morning and then come out here and execute their assignments. So, intensity is not what we're looking for the walk-through, but the mental part of it was excellent."
Pagano worked the club through a longer session in the afternoon. Intensity was added to the expectation for execution, and he was pleased with the effort, citing, in particular, the offense for its crispness.
"Someone asked me this morning how the team came back and did it come back in good shape? We said, 'Yeah, physically,' because of what they did on the conditioning tests," said Pagano of his team that had 100 percent passing rate on Saturday tests. "You can see from today, the offense stayed in their playbooks. Their retention has been excellent, and they came out and moved the ball up and down the field pretty much."
DUNGY A PRACTICE VISITOR – Former Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy and his two of his sons, Eric and Justin, were practice spectators on Sunday afternoon. Dungy coached the Colts to a 92-33 record from 2002-08, ending as the franchise's winningest head coach. He was in camp Saturday evening as well at the invitation of Owner and CEO Jim Irsay.
Dungy, now an NFL studio analyst with NBC, viewed practice with Irsay, then addressed the team afterwards. Pagano enjoyed the chance to meet a Colts predecessor.
"Tony was great. He has so much wisdom," said Pagano. "I told the team he was the all-time winningest coach in Colts history and every one of his teams went to the playoffs. He had 92 wins and won a Super Bowl. More importantly, it's what he did off the field, how he is as man, a father and all the lives he's impacted. Like Tony said, 'It's like Coach Noll used to talk about (with the Steelers), it's not the extraordinary things, it's the ordinary things that you do. It's not so much the most talented team that wins, it's the team that buys into the plan, becomes a family and plays together.' We shared a lot of things, but those are the things that stood out to me."
Dungy enjoyed the chance to be around his former organization, and it was the first practice he has watched since leaving the Colts.
"It's good to be back," said Dungy. "It was fun to see the start of the new era. I talked to Jim Irsay, and he was excited. I watched practice and spent time with Coach Pagano last night. He's special. I can see why Jim Irsay really hit it off with him. I got a chance to meet Andrew (Luck), watch him and see the decision-making, the command of the huddle and the command of the field. They (the Colts) are going to be in good hands. They're going to be in good hands for a long time. To address the team about what it means to play football in Indiana and what it means to have these fans and what they can do to lay their own foundation, it as a pretty special afternoon for me."
"I haven't seen Coach Dungy in a while, and it's always good to get to see him," said safety Antoine Bethea. "He did a lot for the organization. It most definitely was a pleasure to see him."
A total of seven players remain on the roster from his tenure (Justin Snow, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, Bethea, Adam Vinatieri, Antonio Johnson).
Eric Dungy now is 6-1, 181, and played in five games with Oregon last year, snaring two passes for 34 yards, including a 22-yard scoring reception against Missouri State.
INJURY UPDATE – Offensive tackle Justin Anderson (seventh round, Georgia), nose tackle Josh Chapman (fifth round, Alabama) and linebacker Tim Fugger (seventh round, Vanderbilt) will not practice to open training camp. Anderson and Fugger are physically unable to perform. Chapman continues to recover from a knee injury incurred during his senior season. Griff Whalen aggravated a foot injury last week in Indianapolis that he has dealt with the last two to three years. "He's got a little of a foot injury. Player safety is of utmost importance. We're taking every precaution. We expect him back shortly," said Pagano. Linebacker A.J. Edds missed a portion of the practice with a knee injury. Pagano said the matter happened when Edds planted and that he would be evaluated further.