INDIANAPOLIS –The start of unrestricted free agency came in mid-March, about two months after Chuck Pagano started as Colts head coach.
When the gavel sounded to commence the action, it did not take long for Pagano to make a quick move. That move was to the phone and the reason was to urge defensive end Cory Redding to bring his tangibles and intangibles to Indianapolis and to ignore calls from any others wooing him.
On a warm day at Anderson University in August, Redding recalled that March night.
"He said, 'Cory, I need you,' " said Redding. "When I heard that voice come from him and the concern in his voice like, 'Bro, I need you here,' that's what made me forget all others, 'I'm going with you, Chuck, and let's do this. I know how important it is to you, and it's important to me. I want to be a part of that change.' So, here I am."
Here he is, indeed. Last Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, fans saw the full force of his presence in a 23-20 victory over Minnesota. Redding had seven tackles and a fumble recovery while playing in the animated style that marked his career. He was staking his turf and that of his team in the stadium.
Redding plans to be a member of a 3-4 defensive resurgence in Indianapolis, and he knows the personality intended for the defense Pagano and his staff are implementing.
"What you see out there every day when we're running around, flying to the route, hitting guys, challenging any ball that's in the air, stopping the run, not letting the offense get a blade of grass, that's our mind-set," said Redding. "That's (Cover-2) in the past. This is looking forward – a new system, a new scheme, a new attitude. The attitude is, 'Stop the run, period. Get on the passer.' Point-blank, and that's it."
Point-blank has worked in two games. Indianapolis limited Chicago's Matt Forte to 80 rushing yards and the Bears to a total of 114. The Colts allowed Minnesota's Adrian Peterson 60 yards on 16 attempts, while his team got 95 yards. Indianapolis leveled Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder four times.
A defense that permitted at least six individual 100-yard performances annually since 2008, as well as 11 in 2006, has held firmly for 120 minutes. This week's challenge is Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew.
"First and foremost, it's to stop the run, period," said Redding of the defensive aim. "I don't care who we play, at the top of our list is to stop the run. We held him (Peterson) to 16 carries and 60 yards. That's two games without a 100-yard rusher. That's tough to do in this league. There are tremendous backs in this league every week.
"We are facing another in Maurice Jones-Drew. He's no slouch. He's going to come in and he's going to bring it, and we know that. We have to gear up for that. Just like last week, have five, six, seven hats to the ball, 11 if we can. As long as we do that, stop the run and continue to get some pressure on the quarterback, we should be alright."
Pagano was the Ravens' defensive coordinator in 2011, after serving three years as the secondary coach. He was used to some salty performances in Baltimore, both athletically and verbally. Pagano loves Redding's commitment.
"His energy, his enthusiasm, his passion, his knowledge, his leadership, his experience on the football field, he has so much to give," said Pagano. "He's a great player, but he's a better teammate. He's a better person. He's a great father. He's just a great role model. He helps in so many different areas.
"Just being able to come in here and help implement this defense and help Coach (Greg) Manusky and the rest of the guys with new scheme, new terminology, building trust and kind of echoing exactly what the coaches are saying behind the scenes, in the locker room, working with guys one-on-one, spending time in the film room (is invaluable). You don't find a lot of veteran guys who are willing to give up the time he gives up."
This is the first time since 1993 that Indianapolis is employing a 3-4 defensive attack. It reaped rewards in Baltimore, where Redding competed for two of Pagano's four seasons.
Baltimore had the NFL's third-rated defense in 2011, second against the rush and fourth against the pass. The Ravens finished third in NFL scoring defense (16.6) for the fourth straight season, tying a league mark. The Ravens finished first in red zone defense, opponent quarterback rating, fewest offensive touchdowns allowed and fewest touchdown passes permitted, while holding nine regular season opponents to 17 or fewer points.
Redding played among some stalwarts in Baltimore, and his position is critical in the Colts' design.
"It's major. He plays the five-technique and the defensive end in our base package, first- and second-down run defensive package. He'll play inside tackle in our third-down pass rush (formation)," said Pagano. "He's one of those guys where a lot of teams are going to run power, they're going to run off-tackle plays, they're going to run gap-scheme plays, whether they're pulling linemen or double-teaming, or things like that.
"He's at the point of attack a lot, because he lines up to the callside strength of the offense. He's facing a ton of double-teams. He's a big guy. He's got to take on a lot of big offensive tackles and face a lot of double-teams. It's a major position. He plays it very well."
The aim is to bring a saltier nature to Indianapolis. Stopping the run is paramount, and it is something on which Pagano and Redding will harp.
"That's the basis of the defense. You can't do anything, unless you stop the run," said Redding. "You have to have big, stout guys up front with that attitude to stop the run, guys in the backend who's not scared of Cover-1 and put bone-on-bone, man-on-man, 'I'm going to cover you all day long. Let's go. Let's play football.'
"That's what this is based on. The whole team concept is to buy into that. The moment we do that, which we are, we're going to be great."