The Indianapolis Colts wrapped up their second day of training camp today and, if nothing else, we have learned that these definetly are not the old Colts.
Look no further than head coach Chuck Pagano, who today entered the stands before practice and walked up to a fan wearing a Steelers jersey (turns out he was there to see current Colts and former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, per Phil Wilson's story on the subject). Pagano reportedly handed the fan a new Andrew Luck jersey and said to either put it on or leave. Can you imagine Jim Caldwell doing that? Me neither. Pagano inspires confidence and is full of enthusiasm. I was a big Pagano fan entering camp, and from what I have heard I am an even bigger fan now. These new look Colts inspire hope, and Pagano is leading the charge.
Then we have quarterback Andrew Luck, the much hyped rookie out of Stanford. Reports out of camp rave about his accuracy and maturity. Former Colts coach Tony Dungy, who was in attendance for yesterday's practice, said of Luck (quote via the Indianapolis Star): "What impressed me the most was the decision-making and lack of indecisiveness. He looked like a third or fourth year guy in his first practice. I've seen him play twice, but to see it out there, and knowing he's had a condensed offseason program, it was very, very impressive. [The Colts] are going to be in good hands."
Dungy himself must have felt very out of place as well. He has been away from the Colts only 3 seasons, yet only a handful of players from his time remain. A new general manager, an unfamiliar coach... a new quarterback. Dungy's presence at camp was more like a legend stopping in for a visit, not an old friend returning. That symbolizes the new era quite nicely, the former coach and the current coach, brought together to help the new look Colts build the monster. Dungy, obviously, does not play a large role in the rebuilding (sorry Coach Pagano, but that's what it is), but his presence helps fans to realize that these still are their Indianapolis Colts, though they may not recognize them on the field.
We already mentioned Chuck Pagano and Andrew Luck, but there are many more newcomers on the Colts than just those two. In fact, by my last count, sixty of the ninety players on the Colts roster are new, including twenty-six rookies.
Safety Tom Zbikowski, signed as a free agent out of Baltimore, just like defensive end Cory Redding was. Wide receiver Donnie Avery, another free agent signing. Trading for offensive tackle Winston Justice, signing linemen Mike McGlynn and Samson Satele. Drafting two stellar tight ends, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, a nose tackle (Josh Chapman), a running back (Vick Ballard) and two wide receivers (T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill). These are the new look Colts.
There were no huge signings, but sometimes the best monster is built as a team and not a collection of superstars. Sure, the Colts have their stars (Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis and Antoine Bethea lead the list), but this Colts team appears to be about more than just them. Pagano looks to bring the type of leadership necessary to make this work. Maybe not this year, but soon. Yes, very soon.
Not all of the problems will be fixed this year, much less in training camp. They are still very inexperienced, they still stink at cornerback and they still lack some pieces necessary to contend. But if nothing else, these first two days of camp have shown us a little about the type of monster the Colts are building. One that is fundamentally sound, one that is accountable and that has a common passion and goal to win. And you know, that type of team just may make some noise, even this year.
I don't want to be too positive in this post, because the Colts are still not a very good football team at this point. And I am talking about just two days of no contact camp. But I am very encouraged about the core of this team. I believe they can win. Maybe not this year, but in the near future.
This is a time of hope for Colts fans. A new era. A new start. Everything that was wrong about the old Colts can now be changed with these new Colts. This camp marks the beginning of the building of the monster. Colts fans should be excited that they get to play a part in it.