Colts Rookie Running Back Brown Thankful to be in Training Camp on Time
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Donald Brown got what he wanted.
He's in Colts 2009 Training Camp on time, and for the running back from the University of Connecticut, that was a huge offseason goal.
As far as reaching it, he said Monday he had a few people to thank. A few prominent people.
"I'm thankful to be a part of this organization," said Brown, the Colts' first-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft and the lone 2,000-yard rusher in Division I football last season.
"I have to thank Mr. (Colts Owner and Chief Executive Officer Jim) Irsay and the Polians (Colts President Bill Polian and Vice President of Football Operations Chris Polian). My biggest concern was to get to camp on time.
"They made that happen. I'm just happy to be back out here."
Brown, one of eight Colts 2009 draft selections – who all signed before camp and reed on time – worked extensively in practice Monday, the first day of training camp at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. He broke several long runs and caught several passes out of the backfield, with he and third-year running back Joseph Addai each working at full speed.
Brown, who started 23 games in three seasons at UConn, rushed for 3,800 yards and 33 touchdowns in college, also catching 48 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed for 2,083 yards and 18 touchdowns on 367 carries as a junior in his final collegiate season.
The Colts last season ranked 31st in the NFL in rushing after ranking in the Top 20 in the area much of the past decade. Upon drafting Brown, Polian called him a game-breaking running back, and Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said Brown gave the Colts the second quality running back necessary on a successful offense.
"Donald Brown is a guy who we anticipate will move quickly in terms of his knowledge of the game and how he performs out there on the field," Caldwell said Monday. "It will be exciting to see him in pads and see what he can do."
The running game, as it was throughout the offseason, was a topic on the first day of training camp Monday. Colts center Jeff Saturday said Sunday it must improve and that the offensive line was focused there. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning on Monday was asked about his role in the area.
"As far as the impact I can have on the running game – I won't be running a lot," Manning said, laughing, "but I do take a lot of pride and take very seriously trying to make the best run-game decisions."
What Caldwell said was most important early in camp about Brown was that he was indeed in camp. The Colts in recent seasons typically have signed their draft class before training camp, thereby avoiding a hold-out situation.
That ability to have players practicing is a crucial element to the team's success in recent seasons, Caldwell said.
"One of the things that you can't discount is the value of getting your team all together right at the start," Caldwell said. "Bill Polian and Chris (Polian) and (Director of Player Personnel) Tom Telesco – those guys do a tremendous job of not only identifying and selecting talent, but also getting them signed and getting them here so we can work with them.
"To be able to start our first day without any distractions in that regard – without any holdouts – is a testament to what they do and how they do their job, and also what kind of people we get as well."
Brown said the experience gained during the offseason – in minicamps and organized team activities – helped prepare him for the coming weeks and months.
"They helped tremendously," he said. "To be able to be out there with the guys, it makes it a little easier for training camp."
NFL players often speak of the difference in intensity at various stages of the season. The regular season is different than the preseason and the postseason is different than the regular season. A training camp practice is different than a minicamp practice, and Brown said that difference was noticeable Monday.
"It's starting to pick back up," he said. "The speed's getting a little faster. Everybody's getting that itch to get out there and play. . . . I just want to go out and improve every day. I want to give my best effort. That's all I can control. I just go out and give my best and compete and just try to help the team any way I can.
"It felt good to get back out there and run around."