He welcomed the rookie class to the Colts in the morning, and in the afternoon, Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy welcomed the media back, too.
That was what Friday and the entire weekend really was about, Dungy said:
Getting to know new faces.
What the first day of the Colts’ 2007 rookie mini-camp was most definitely not about was evaluating talent, a belief long held by Dungy and Colts President Bill Polian and one Dungy reiterated Friday afternoon.
“You can’t jump to conclusions,” Dungy said Friday, the first day of the Colts’ 2007 mini-camp, which will continue through Sunday at the Colts’ practice facility.
“That’s something (Hall of Fame) Coach (Chuck) Noll used to tell us all the time, ‘Don’t cut anybody, and don’t put anybody in the Hall of Fame.’ We tend to do that. You’re so excited. You want to see what these guys are all about.”
Dungy, during a brief post-practice session with reporters following an afternoon practice, discussed several players, including first-round draft selection Anthony Gonzalez (wide receiver), second-round selection Tony Ugoh (offensive tackle) and third-round selection Daymeion Hughes (cornerback).
But while he discussed those players, he said little is known yet about how they will adapt to the NFL.
Mostly, Dungy said he was pleased with how the nine rookies and 14 collegiate free agents acquired last weekend adjusted to their new routine.
“Jon Scott, our equipment man, told me guys were able to follow directions and get their stuff,” he said. “It was a good group from that standpoint. That goes a long way.”
Several reporters laughed at the anecdote.
Dungy did not.
“You’re laughing, but, really, that tells me a lot more than what happens on the field the first day,” Dungy said.
The Colts, because they emphasize the draft and collegiate free agency as a way to build their roster over veteran free agency, typically play several such players as rookies. Last year, rookie first-round selection Joseph Addai
led all NFL rookies in rushing, rookie safety Antoine Bethea started 14 regular-season games and rookie offensive tackle Charlie Johnson played a critical role in the Super Bowl.
Running back Dominic Rhodes and middle linebacker Gary Brackett – the team’s defensive captain -- were each undrafted free agents. Rhodes, now with the Oakland Raiders, led the Colts in rushing in the postseason last year.
“Our expectations are that everybody has a chance to contribute,” Dungy said. “We said the same thing last year and we told them the story, that Joseph Addai was the only 1,000-yard rusher among rookies, and that Charlie Johnson and Antoine Bethea were sixth-round picks, but played a big role in the Super Bowl.
“We don’t have a blueprint for who’s going to contribute and who won’t. Everybody’s going to have a chance.”
During last year’s rookie camp, Bethea made an interception in the morning and afternoon, and Polian told the story this past week of how Dungy approached him after the second interception and said, “We’ve got something here.”
“That’s the fun part as a head coach,” Dungy said. “You don’t know who it’s going to be. Last year, it was Antoine Bethea. In past years, it has been (defensive end) Josh Thomas and Gary Brackett – guys who weren’t household words when they came here.
“There always is (an undrafted rookie who contributes). We just don’t know who it is yet.”
While Dungy told no such story about a specific player after Friday’s practice, he said that’s not the purpose this weekend.
“As we told them, it’s really an informational camp,” Dungy said. “But it’s still great to have everybody here. You feel like it’s the start of 2007.”
And despite the rookie camp being the first on-field work for the Colts since the Super Bowl championship, Dungy said entering a season as World Champions shouldn’t change anyone’s approach.
“I have the same anticipation and same excitement for these guys coming in,” Dungy said. “We certainly want to do everything we can to get back there, but I think we have to approach it the same way.”
Story Courtesy: The Indianapolis Colts