ANDERSON –Tuesday night at Anderson University marks the first prime-time practice for the Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts typically hold two camp practices at night to allow fans to attend who otherwise may not have the opportunity during the day. Tonight's session runs from 6:30 p.m. to 9:10 p.m.
For Colts players, there is something different when the sun drops and the lights are fired up. They tend to catch the emotion, too.
Whether it reminds them of past days or is just an opportunity to do what they love, a night practice provides a different setting.
"I think the lights do something to you," said Robert Mathis, who has not lost the feel for night practices he has enjoyed since 2003. "It reminds you of high school football. When the lights come on, it's, 'Showtime.' I think everybody is going to have fun with it.
"The crowd is going to come out and be into it. The guys are going to come out, be excited and have fun. (We want) to get better at the same time."
Mathis and Dwight Freeney have been using the camp time to become more acclimated to the club's new hybrid 3-4 defense. Each will continue to rush the passer, but both will be used in more untraditional roles in 2012. Tonight's practice will allow another chance to view their adaption.
Quarterback Andrew Luck has been spearheading the club's offense through the first 11 days of camp. Like Mathis, he recalls having a different feeling when practices are at night.
"I think you always get a little more energy, a little more juice when you get under the lights," said Luck. "It being a night practice, there might be something extra in the air."
When asked why he would feel any difference at night than during the day – it's just a feeling.
"I (think) maybe more of a stage is set when you feel like you're more in the spotlight with the lights," said Luck. "I think it is something special. It's always been that way for me in football, when you got to play a night game under the lights even high school, or the one time in Pop Warner you got to play under lights. There's something about it that's special."
Luck has grown exponentially since mid-June when he attended the club's mandatory mini-camp. That growth has continued at training camp, where he and his teammates have practiced before healthy crowds daily.
The offense has shown quick-strike potential, and a renewed emphasis on a more powerful running game has shown some spirited work by the six backs in camp.
As for the reception Luck has had, it has been a good dose of Hoosier and Midwest hospitality.
"It's been very positive and very nice," said Luck. "Obviously, there are great folks in the Midwest, great folks in Indiana. The people of Anderson have been very kind. You hear of people driving from Bowling Green and Louisville (Kentucky). It's very special to see the fans come out."
A good portion of the players sign autographs daily after practices open to the public. That will be the case again tonight after the work is concluded. To this point, Luck has penned more than a few items, and one stands out in particular in his mind.
"I think an old Vietnam War helmet from the Army, which was pretty cool. It had the Colts' logo on it," said Luck.
Players will be off on Wednesday before resuming afternoon practices on Thursday and Friday. The Colts play St. Louis on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. in Lucas Oil Stadium.
The team will hold afternoon practices on Tuesday, August 14 and Wednesday, August 15. A final night practice at the same time as tonight's (6:30 p.m.-9:10 p.m.) will be held on Thursday, August 16. The team heads back to Indianapolis the next day.