So, imagine you are someone like, say, Jeff Linkenbach. You just signed a rookie free agent contract with the Colts. About five days later, you are at the practice facility. They've given you the playbook, you've met your position coach, and you've likely had a few brief minutes with Jim Caldwell. You're told this "mini-camp" is not about competition or evaluation. It's about you (the rookie) learning how the Colts do things. This isn't college anymore, where the head coaches attend more golfing events than they do watching game film; where the QB option is a staple of the college offense.
In the pros, that sh*t will get you knocked the f*ck out!
So, no offense, but as a rookie in his first few days on the job in the NFL, what you did in college means nothing, especially in a work environment like the Colts. They have no problems benching a first day draft pick from a premiere college program (Mike Pollak) for a guy who, the year prior, was playing Arena II football (Kyle DeVan).
At West 56th Street in Indy, it doesn't matter where you come from. The results are what matters.
Back to you being Jeff Linkenbach, you're there, in the meeting room, listening to the coaches drone on and on about the "Colts way" and how you will have an opportunity to win a job, etc. Your mind is a whirlwind right now. Just two weeks prior, your worry was finals week. Now, your worry is learning a 120 page playbook in just two months.
Suddenly, to borrow a KSK bit, "the door flies open" to the meeting room and in walks team defensive captain Gary Brackett and team offensive captain Peyton Manning.
As much as the day was about learning, there were moments when the players realized they had achieved a long-time goal, too. For some, that moment came when they entered the Colts' locker room, and for others, it came when Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and middle linebacker Gary Brackett spoke to the rookies early Friday morning.
First off, this kind of stuff is what makes this org so great. While I am sure other orgs have veterans show up to welcome rookies, Peyton Manning is the face of the NFL. He doesn't have to do jack sh*t for anyone. He's a multi-gazillionaire, has all kinds of off-the-field charities to work on, and there is his usual quota of shooting 15,000 commercials a year.
Yet, the face of the NFL, the absolute most important player the league has, showed up on Friday morning to meet with a bunch of rookies. Peyton is the best, period. It's moment like these that make me want to spit in the face of people who still hold onto this notion that Joe Montana was "better." He wasn't. Peyton'd whoop his ass!
Anyway, back to the rookies, for first round pick Jerry Hughes, his OMG I'm in the NFL!" moment was when he put his helmet on.
"It felt great," Hughes said. "I loved being out there on the field. Putting on that white helmet felt even better. . . .
"Coming in and seeing my name on that locker, I said, 'Wow, I'm actually in the NFL now.''
And at the end of the day, Caldwell said while there was little evaluation, there was a positive early feeling.
"We got ourselves off to a good start," Caldwell said. "We have a very good class of young men. Right now, you can't do any serious assessments of what they're going to look like once they get pads on, but they seem to learn well and they adjust quickly."
The next step is to get the drafted rookies signed and in camp on time. The full team mini-camp is in June.