INDIANAPOLIS --You have to imagine the past few days have been quite the whirlwind for for 55 young men who spent hour upon hour at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center in Indianapolis.
And though Sunday's rounds of meetings officially wrapped up the Indianapolis Colts' 2016 rookie minicamp, it's difficult not to wonder how a simple taste of the NFL life will shape the future of this year's participants, many of whom were in town on a tryout basis and only might get the chance to step foot in an NFL team's facility again.
The experience started Thursday, when the players were brought into the facility and treated to a carwash of sorts. In a matter of hours, they would leave the facility that day and head to their hotel rooms nearby having completed a physical, fitted for a helmet and given tablet loaded with a watered-down version of the Colts' offensive and defensive play calls and schemes.
Friday and Saturday featured the nitty-gritty-like schedule that only the NFL can boast; coming in early in the morning for treatment and workouts, heading straight to meetings with position coaches, grabbing a quick bite to eat while facing the local media, enduring an intense, quick-moving practice, and then heading back into the meeting rooms to see what you did right — and, perhaps more importantly, what you did wrong.
Oh, and when you get back to the hotel for the night, you better fall asleep with that team tablet on your chest, as those who don't spend every waking hour perfecting the system typically have already fallen behind for the next day of work.
Sunday was a little more relaxed, but still just as nerve-wracking. Though Colts rookie minicamp players didn't practice on the field, they still arrived early in the morning and endured more positional meetings, finally getting a chance to breathe around 1 p.m.
If it sounds like a lot for a rookie or first-year NFL hopeful to handle — it is. But that's the point. The Colts coaches want to throw as much as they can at these guys in a four-day period to see what sticks, and who can process and apply their lessons the quickest.
So with this year's Colts rookie minicamp officially in the books, let's take a quick look back at some of the top quotes from the players and head coach Chuck Pagano about the experience:
• "Keep your head down. Keep your blinders on. Control what you can control. That's your work habits, your effort on the football field, your meeting protocol, all those things. Don't look around. Don't count numbers. Don't compare. Don't complain. Just be a sponge. Absorb as much as you can. Learn as much as you can. Whether it's offense, defense, special teams, the more you can do. Work your tail off, be where you're supposed to be, know your assignments and make some plays out there and good things will happen." — Colts head coach Chuck Pagano on what he told the rookie minicamp participants on Day 1.
• "Yeah, when I first walked in the equipment room to get my helmet I was in awe about it. I actually have an NFL helmet and it has my name on it and it has my number on it. It's just a special feeling for me to finally be on this level." — Safety T.J. Green, the Colts' second-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, on Thursday's equipment fitting.
• "I think it's just trying to get acclimated to the NFL the best possible. It's such a jump from college to being a professional athlete. I think it's taken up, all the media classes that we've gotten, all the information that we've taken in so far, it's been hours and hours of meetings not only just about football stuff, but how to conduct yourself as a professional athlete. I think those are invaluable, and I think everybody is taking those to heart." — Center Ryan Kelly, the Colts' first-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, on how he measures success for rookie minicamp.
• "It's great. It's a dream. (When you're) a kid, a lot of guys dream of this and I'm here finally. A lot of people (make) the mistake and think that when they get to the NFL they think they've arrived, but it's really the beginning of something. That's my attitude. That's what I bring to it. I don't feel like, 'I'm here, I've finally made it.' I'm trying to work and get better and achieve my goals and help this team win however I can." — Inside linebacker Antonio Morrison, the Colts' fourth-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, on his feelings of having a locker at the Colts' facility.
• "It was a little different (laughs). It's pretty much the same thing just getting to know all the terminologies. Terminology for every call. Just have to pick those things up, but other than that not too much." — Tackle Le'Raven Clark, the Colts' third-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, on his first thoughts seeing the Colts' playbook.
Highlights from the second practice of the Colts 2016 Rookie Mini-Camp!
• "It has been a fair amount of information but for the most part I think they have high expectations for us as well as this entire team. They push us to understand it all and they push us to make sure we are spending time outside of the facility studying it. It's been tough but it's been nice to learn a whole new system." — Tackle Joe Haeg, the Colts' fifth-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, on how much the Indy coaching staff threw at the rookies.
• "I was blessed to have some very, very good coaches at Texas that prepared me a lot for this. They prepared me even better than I thought I was. They prepared me a lot, let's just say that (laughs)." — Defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway, the Colts' fourth-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, on catching up to the speed of an NFL practice.
• "It's been a long journey. It's been ups and downs — like not getting drafted. But as long as I got the opportunity, I'm just happy to be here and prove myself. … I was surprised. I mean, I thought I was good enough to be drafted. But things went how they went, I've just got to prove myself." — Linebacker Ron Thompson, who went undrafted out of Syracuse, on the whirlwind process of the last week.
• "Mainly I don't try to look at it as the play. When I hear the play, I want to pick up my keys, because there's certain keys to each play, and some of the keys relate to each other in some of the plays, so I mainly just try to stick to my key. That's how I've been learning it. … Yesterday (Friday) they threw a lot at us, but today (Saturday) they cut back a little bit. They just want to make sure that we still remember the stuff from yesterday and we can pick up the stuff from today." — Defensive end Sterling Bailey, who went undrafted out of Georgia, on what's going through his mind as he studies his Colts playbook.
• "These guys, it's hard to get into one of these facilities, especially for the guys that you're talking about, the tryout guys. Just like anybody else, see if somebody pops, see if a guy is able to retain the information that we've thrown at him and then from a physical standpoint how does he move around, can he better our football team, can he better our roster, is he better than the 90th man? Sometimes that happens. It's happened before. I wouldn't be shocked to see one of the 18 or 19 guys we have out there. They've done a great job. I wouldn't be shocked if one of them made it." — Pagano on what he's looking for in the tryout players at rookie minicamp.