On July 27 – after the Colts' first practice of training camp – quarterback Matt Ryan laid out his mindset for the next month and a half.
"You can't wait," Ryan said. "It's every day, it's every rep. We've got to maximize the time that we spend out here, before you know it, we're going to look up and be in Houston and we're going to be keeping score."
Before you know it is here. The Colts re-convened at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center on Monday for a walkthrough with just six days remaining until the season opener Sept. 11 against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium.
But the Colts don't need to ratchet up the urgency with which they're preparing this week – because it's been high ever since they hit the practice fields at Grand Park in Westfield in late July.
"I think it sets us up well, and there's no question Matt has had a tremendous sense of urgency," head coach Frank Reich said. "I think others players have we well. But you can just feel it. There's — you can just feel it. So now that we're here, he's had that same sense of urgency every day, every week through training camp, now it's here, it's nothing new. That's the way it should be.
"You need to have that sense of urgency every day. So I think him bringing that the whole offseason, the whole training camp, that in and of itself is what sets us up the best now that the season's started."
That sense of urgency is important for a team that plays five of its first seven games against AFC South opponents. In another realm of before-you-know-it: The Colts will be done playing the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans one week before Halloween.
The Colts, too, have a sense of urgency to open the season with a 1-0 record not because of the external pressure to snap an eight-game Week 1 losing streak, but because, well, starting 1-0 is a lot better than 0-1.
But the level of focus and the intensity the Colts practiced with during training camp has players confident they're ready for the start of the regular season. And that's from both a physical and mental standpoint.
Physically, the Colts feel like they're well-conditioned on both sides of the ball because of the fast tempo at which Ryan ran practices.
"It gets all of us in the best possible shape because during camp," wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. said "Matt's rushing us up to the line and getting us going fast. I think that's going to really help us play fast and be able to go fast when (the defense) is feeling tired."
"We really strained running to the ball and making sure we're in shape, because you're really not going to get in shape until you start playing football," safety Julian Blackmon added. "So the best thing that we do is just run."
And mentally, wide receiver Ashton Dulin said that up-tempo, sense-of-urgency mindset led players to "lock in a little bit more" since on offense, they can dictate certain things to a defense (like not allowing them to get new personnel packages on the field by controlling the pace). On defense, the physical and mental benefits are intertwined.
"I feel like it helps a lot because you're not thinking about tired now," Blackmon said. "You're just thinking about okay, next play, what are my tendencies that I'm seeing, what's my job. The reason why you do that is so you don't be like ah, I'm tired. There's none of that when you start working hard in practice."
So when the Colts do get to Houston and every play will count, it won't be any different than the last six weeks.
When every play counted, too.
"I think our whole thing that we preached the whole time was how important every single day was, how important every single rep was knowing that has a cumulative effect over time," linebacker Zaire Franklin said. "I think that's what really contributed to the sense of urgency that everyone's feeling is just that we didn't take any moment for granted, we took advantage of every opportunity we had. So when you got that and you put all this work in, you just can't wait to let it show.
"It's like when you study for a test over and over and over again, at a certain point, you're just like, man, I can't wait to take the test because I know I'm going to kill it."
- The Colts will practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday ahead of their trip to Houston this weekend. Practice reports will be released after each of those three practices, with final game designations announced Friday.
- Linebacker Shaquille Leonard is expected to participate in practice this week, Reich said. The Colts will evaluate Leonard's status for Week 1 at the end of the week, per Reich, but the approach now is: "Let's get out there and practice and keep making progress, and don't force anything, but let's keep making progress," Reich said.
- Colts players voted on team captains Monday, with the results publicly announced on Wednesday.