First Day of Three-Day Rookie Mini-camp Held at Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center
INDIANAPOLIS – So far, so good.
The Colts, entering their first season under new head coach Jim Caldwell, this past weekend drafted players for the first time in his tenure. On Friday, they began their first rookie mini-camp of his tenure, an event that also was the first time he officially coached the team in meetings and on the field as head coach.
It's a weekend about acclimation.
And it's about education.
Mostly, Caldwell said the three-day mini-camp is about making sure the eight rookies and 13 free agents know what to expect in the coming months, and to that end, Caldwell said it was a productive day.
"We certainly got off to a good start, we think, today," said Caldwell, a Colts assistant the past seven seasons who succeeded Tony Dungy in January. "We had an opunity to take the young guys through their paces. It's a very important time for us, primarily because the teaching and information we try and dispense at this time is important for them to be able to grasp and, at some point in time, regurgitate."
Of his first day, Caldwell said, "It was great."
"I've been extremely excited about having an opportunity to direct the squad," Caldwell said. "It was a lot of fun. First day, like anything else, you anticipate some things occurring that may not go as smoothly as you'd think, but it was a smooth day today. The operation was pretty seamless."
Donald Brown, a running back from the University of Connecticut and the team's first-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft, was among those participating, as were the team's other seven draft selections: defensive tackle Fili Moala of Southern California, cornerback Jerraud Powers of Auburn, wide receiver Austin Collie of Brigham Young, defensive tackle Terrance Taylor of Michigan, quarterback Curtis Painter of Purdue, punter/kicker Pat McAfee of West Virginia and guard Jaimie Thomas of Maryland.
Brown rushed for more than 2,000 yards this past season, the only player in college football to do so, and Caldwell said the first impression Friday was positive.
"We were not disappointed," Caldwell said, adding, "It's very, very difficult to evaluate anyone on one day for a two-hour period. A lot more goes into it than that, but he certainly did well today."
Caldwell said the weekend is an important time because it's more than just a time to work with new players. It's a time to work with players who will contribute next season.
Caldwell said about 30-32 players are participating in the mini-camp: the eight draft selections, the 13 collegiate free agents and several more first-year veterans signed previously.
About 12 such players a year have played for the Colts the past seven seasons, Caldwell said.
Last year, 18 first-year veterans or rookies contributed, and Caldwell sees it, this weekend is the first of four opportunities for the rookies and young players to hear the Colts' system being installed.
"They'll hear it one other time prior to starting our OTAs May 19," he said. "They'll hear it again just before training camp. We bring them in a couple of days early – and then, obviously, the training camp itself. They have an opportunity to hear it taught, get a feel for it, then put it to action.
"It's a very important time and they started out very well."
Caldwell said the Colts have three primary objectives this weekend:
• Get the players acclimated to philosophy, techniques and fundamentals. "That's very important to us," he said.
• Teach the players how the Colts do things. "There's a 'Colts way' of doing things, and we want to make sure that's stressed," he said.
• Teach the players' the pace at which the Colts operate.
And although Caldwell and Colts President Bill Polian each said this week the weekend was not about evaluation, Caldwell said the overall feel he got for the draft class was a good one.
"You could tell it's a very attentive group," he said. "It's a group that learns quickly. They were pretty efficient for the first time going out and operating within our system. They were pretty efficient on our first day.
"We take it slow – as slow as we can, as slow as you can go in this league. We try to make certain that teaching is the most important thing. The instruction, we'll slow it down if we have to in terms of our install if we find they're not grasping the material.
"Today, there was a fairly large amount of information that was given to them. They seemed to grasp it well. We were able to go out on the field and do OK the first day. Now, we're going to heap a little more on that, so you'll see things start to slow down a little bit.
"But we think we have a smart group here."