Monday morning was the first day of Colts 2007 Training Camp at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
Gary Brackett was sore. He was tired. And he was hot.
Pretty much what he expected, the Colts’ starting middle linebacker said – and pretty much his experience at every training camp he can remember.
“You’re never really ready for the first day of pads, the heat,” Brackett said Monday, shortly after a morning practice at Rose-Hulman. “No matter what temperature it is all summer, the first day of camp it will be hot and the last day of camp it will rain.
“They (two-a-day camp practices) are still the same. Your body’s still sore. You’re still in the cold tub, but this is football. It’s a necessary evil.”
Reaction from players was mixed following the first practice.
Brackett called it “rusty.”
“Of course, it was rusty,” be said. “First practice in pads. The energy was there, but the attention to details wasn’t. It’s just a matter of cleaning up some of these things and getting ready for the season.”
Others said it was fine – for a first practice.
“I think it was real crisp,” cornerback Marlin Jackson said. “We went out there and ran around well and we did a lot of drills before camp coming in here. We had good breaks on the ball.”
Said Colts center Jeff Saturday, “It was good. It was fun. Guys were out there hitting. It’s the first time we’ve had 9-on-7 or inside drills – heavy banging around. I thought we did a good job. I thought guys were coming off, popping each other.
“It always feels good to get the first one under your belt.”
The Colts lost several high-profile players to free agency and retirement in the off-season – offensive tackle Tarik Glenn (retired), cornerbacks Nick Harper (Tennessee) and Jason David (New Orleans), running back Dominic Rhodes (Oakland) and linebacker Cato June (Tampa Bay).
They also released defensive tackle Montae Reagor (Philadelphia) and wide receiver Brandon Stokley (Denver) for salary cap reasons.
The early days of camp, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said, are about acclimating new players to old, and getting new players familiar with the system.
“Whether it’s receivers or offensive linemen or running backs, we’ve had some openings due to some of the players we’ve lost,” Manning said. “That’s where my challenge is, to get to where I feel 100 percent confident in each of those players, to where I feel totally comfortable making throws, making audibles and decisions with some of these players. That’s why this time is great – to get on the same page and get that comfort level.”
Sunday, Dungy and Colts President Bill Polian each spoke extensively in the first meeting of the season.
The Colts’ players and coaches do not consider themselves defending Super Bowl champions.
Yes, the team won the Super Bowl last season for the first time in 36 years, but last year is over, Polian and Dungy said.
The focus now, each said, is on winning this season.
“The gist of my talk is that we’re the ’06 champions,” Polian said Monday. “There’s no ’07 champion. We start all over. Everybody’s 0-0.”
Players said the message was received. Clearly.
“It’s like Bill Polian said, ‘There really is no such thing as a defending champion,” Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said. “There really is no champion in 2007. That’s yet to be determined. We’re like all other 31 teams, trying to bust our butts here in training camp, get ready to play and hopefully have a good year.
“We’re playing the Saints in the season opener (on September 6), so we’ll find out really what kind of team we have. It really is a new team and it’s about forming our identity for this year’s team.”
Said Saturday, “It’s like every year in the past. You put last season behind you. We did it when we lost in the playoffs and had tough ones, so when we win, it has to be the same thing. I think that has to be the mentality we have.”
Throughout the off-season, the Colts had a flurry of Super Bowl-related off-field activities. They were honored by President Bush at the White House. Manning appeared on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. In June, the organization received Super Bowl rings.
But Manning said the time for thinking of last season ended several months ago.
“It really got put behind us in April, at the beginning of the off-season (conditioning) program,” Manning said. “That was really the beginning of the 2007 season. We’ve had good off-season attendance. Guys have gotten bigger, stronger and faster this off-season. That’s encouraging.
“Now’s the time to put it to work and kind of form this 2007 team. You have guys fighting for roster spots and good competition out there.”
Manning joked that he thought it was a good sign that no players or coaches wore their Super Bowl ring to the first meeting of camp Sunday.
“Guys kind of got the idea that coach said, ‘They can never take it away from us, but it truly has to be put behind you,’’’ Manning said. “This is a new team. We’ve got to form a new identity and we’ve got to try to establish something special for this team.”
“I always tell the rookies, ‘No letter jackets, or bowl gear or (NFL Scouting) Combine gear. That could be the same thing.
“If you catch somebody wearing it (the ring), that could be a potential fine.”
Story Courtesy: The Indianapolis Colts