INDIANAPOLIS –As Colts players enter work today, they do so with a new off-season protocol, but with a time-honored message.
"We just redefined and talked about the foundation has been laid," said Chuck Pagano about what he communicated when the program started two weeks ago and where it is taking his players and coaches. "We laid it two years ago and now we have the same vision and same goals. We talk about our culture, our environment, the core values – trust, loyalty and respect.
"The objectives and emphasis of the off-season (were discussed). Our goal is never going to change. That's why we hone that (message), just so it's in front of us every single day when we walk into this facility. That's what we're chasing."
Pagano was speaking in conjunction with his Chuckstrong Gala (**click here for story**) that raised $632,000 for research by the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center.
Pagano waged a daily fight in 2012 to beat leukemia, missing 13 weeks from his job and daily walking in remission, a path that hopefully leads to a fully successful completion in about three more years.
Messaging and example are staples to Pagano's process, and he applies it to his team as strenuously as he manages it in his life.
While Friday was about attacking life and benefiting others, Monday brings more preparation for his players.
Phase two of the conditioning program allows on-field workouts. Players are limited to individual instruction from coaches. Drills are conducted on a separate basis with no contact or offense-versus-defense work.
This is a three-week process that eventually graduates into a third phase where units work together.
As that goes on, the NFL Draft runs this Thursday through Saturday, infusing the job market with new hopefuls, as well as others that were not taken in the seven rounds.
That process helps reshape teams with newcomers. The work being done by veterans does the same as part of a team's identity is forged in the spring, far away from the brighter lights of training camp.
Pagano began his message two years ago when arriving. The team he inherited was coming off a 2-14 season and was fingered almost unanimously by observers to be also-rans.
He urged players to work daily, toil for each other, disregard anything that happened outside the team's facility and to dream to be great.
An 11-5 season followed. Another 11-5 campaign came in 2013. Both were earned, not given. Success for 2014 is anything but a sure thing.
"That's Coach Pagano's mantra, M.O. ever since I've been here," said Andrew Luck. "In football terms, we're thinking about trying to work every day to win a Super Bowl. He's definitely a great example for everybody, not just the guys in our locker room."
Says Pagano, "We're not guaranteed anything. That's why we talk about this (job) being such a privilege. If you treat it as a privilege, you don't take anything for granted and come in here with a mindset that you're going to do everything possible every single day to get better, to keep your job.
"You know, somebody's out there trying to get my job. Somebody's out there trying to get one of these player's job. They want a locker, they want a jersey number, the nameplate (over the locker) up there.
"As long as you don't consider this a right, take things for granted, keep things in perspective, there's a good chance you're going to be around for a long time."
Last year almost 65 percent of the veterans had a participation rate exceeding 90 percent. The first two weeks have had very good attendance.
One player whose participation will be watched will be Reggie Wayne, who is coming off ACL surgery on his right knee.
Wayne is doing well in rehabilitation and will be monitored closely by coaches and the medical staff.
Wayne is driving himself to return to the elite level he has earned for years.
"He's wired. He's extremely motivated," said Pagano. "He's probably more motivated today than he's ever been at any point of his career."