INDIANAPOLIS – Having gotten a 2-14 team buy into a different mindset in 2012, Chuck Pagano has maintained that same touch with a program now that has earned consecutive playoff appearances.
As OTAs turn into a mandatory mini-camp this week to close work until training camp, Pagano praises the effort that has gone on since April.
"Number one would be attendance. That's a major (thing)," said Pagano of areas that impressed him the most. "We've have had great participation. You always worry about getting the numbers and getting the guys here. I bet we had over 90 percent of the guys here for the entire period. That is huge.
"The off-season, you get nine weeks. The first two weeks, you're not doing that much. Phase Two work is against air (no offense vs. defense). (Phase Three is) really the meat and potatoes of it. The effort players are putting forth is outstanding."
The maturing offense has seen the return of Dwayne Allen, continued development from receivers, an offensive line working with a new interior and the constant excellence of Andrew Luck.
Defensively, Indianapolis is aiming for growth in its 3-4 scheme and with the additions of Art Jones and D'Qwell Jackson, the club also is working to plug in a new safety for the departed Antoine Bethea.
"The attention to detail has been good," said Pagano. "We're so far ahead going into year three on defense. Coaches and players hope and expect a huge jump from a communication standpoint and having everybody on the same page. You can tell with the players flying around on the practice field, we're just miles ahead of wherever we've been.
"Offensively, going into year two with Pep Hamilton and having some injured guys back – having Dwayne Allen out there – that part has been great. We've gotten better every day."
The Colts were back on the field Tuesday for organized team activities.
Ten OTA sessions are down and this three-day camp is nothing really more than an extension, except for the mandatory nature that ensures all players are around.
Pagano says players have held up well under intense coaching, something that has been an off-season trademark of his staff since arriving.
That approach means players more than once have been exposed to everything planned for 2014.
"We've thrown a lot at them," said Pagano. "With the defense going into year three, we've thrown even more stuff at those guys and add onto what we've had, tweaking things here and there.
"We have some young guys on the offensive line who are seeing a lot of things for the first time. This is where you fine-tune things, test out all your protections and communication.
"It's part of the 'whole, part, whole' mentality. In Phase Two when we first hit the grass, it was the first time to hear the terminology. We come back through OTAs and they hear it again. Then we come to the mini-camp and we'll throw it at them again. By the time we get to training camp, it will be the fourth time that we go through the installation with them. We think getting it to them now and (with) working out the kinks, we should be in good shape."
Pagano emphasized the aggressive efforts by his dutiful staff have paid off.
"Our coaches have done an outstanding job with getting guys information and teaching them. They've been really deliberate in practice and very specific and detailed about the little things that are going to help us take the next step."
Two 11-5 seasons capped with playoff berths are history. Mini-camp is the present, and three days of work is another opportunity to help define 2014.
"We've taken steps the first two seasons," said Pagano. "We have to take another one, and we know how hard it is to get back to where we were last year.
"It's going to take a great effort on everybody's part. I'm really proud of the quality of the work. We're trying to get done as much as we can get done."
INJURY UPDATE –A number of players did not participate in OTAs, among them Reggie Wayne, Donald Thomas and Vick Ballard. Pagano likely does not see this week's work including any players who have been out.
"We're going to err on the side of caution with those guys. I don't it would be smart on our part with those guys to rush anybody back."