Jim Caldwell presides over his first mini-camp as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts:
The Colts, a postseason team each of the past seven seasons, on Friday will begin their annual three-day rookie mini-camp at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. As has been the case in recent seasons, the emphasis will be on acclimation, education and preparation.
Still, for Caldwell it will be not only his first mini-camp since succeeding Tony Dungy as head coach after seven years as an assistant, but also his first time running practices as an NFL head coach.
And yes, he said, that makes it special.
"I'm excited about it – that's for sure," Caldwell said recently.
This camp isn't about hitting or the playbook or anything like that. It's about teaching the rooks not to F up when the real Mini Camp and Training Camp start. It gets them used to the way the Colts do things, introduces many of them to their position coaches, and helps them better transition into life in the NFL.
In general, it's a good idea. Many rookies walk into Training Camp wide-eyed and dumbfounded, making them useless. Mini-camps like this make the transition a bit smoother.
The camp also offers the rookies an opportunity to stand out before the veterans show up:
[Polian] often has told the story of the 2006 rookie camp, when a sixth-round draft selection showed quickly that he not only likely would contribute, but do so quickly on a big-time level.
That player was safety Antoine Bethea, who made the Pro Bowl the following season.
"Some, like Antoine Bethea, just jump out at you," Polian said. "You say, 'Wow, that guy’s going to make it. No question about it.' One of these seems to happen every rookie camp."
But Polian said just as important is realizing that not every player adapts as quickly as Bethea, and that just because he doesn't is no guarantee he won't be an NFL success.
Bethea stood put in both rookie camp and Training Camp that year, eventually stealing the starting job away from veteran Mike Doss. Maybe another rookie from this class can come in and unseat another established veteran. We'll see.