The Indianapolis Colts ended their eight week offseason program last Thursday with the final day of a three-day mandatory minicamp, and the players will now go their separate ways for seven weeks, until they report to Anderson University for training camp on August 1.
This is truly the one dead period of the NFL year, as teams cannot work out or practice together and coaches can't talk football with players. There's really not much that goes on from the end of the offseason program to the start of training camp.
For the players, it's a nice chance to get away from the grueling routine that is the NFL, particularly once training camp starts up. From August through the end of the season (for some teams the beginning of January, and for others the beginning of February, and everywhere in between), they will put in long days of tough work to try to win football games, reach the playoffs, and win in the playoffs. So this is a very nice time right before the season starts to get away.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano realizes that, and his message to players about this time off was to connect with family, stay in shape, and stay out of trouble.
"The message today was really we can't, over the next six weeks, just drop football and forget about everything that we've done to this point because we've made strides," Pagano said on Thursday. "We've made ground. Great eight weeks. So what I hit them with was No. 1 they've got to connect, and that means connect with family. There's nothing more important. Be where your feet are. Get with your kids. Get with your loved ones Get with your wife, girlfriend, whatever that is and connect. Then it's the physical part. You've got to stay working out. You've got to run, you've got to lift, you've got to do all those things. You've got to continue to work at your skillset and your craft. Then the mental part. Stay in your iPad. Stay in your playbook. Study, study, study. Pick a time out during the day. Get in a routine. Then the last thing, which is not much more important than family and connecting, is doing the right thing and making great choices. We can't afford to lose one person because of a bad decision, so really hit home on that."
The Colts have been putting a lot of work in this offseason, and Pagano doesn't want any of that to go to waste. He wants his players to continue to stay in shape and study the playbook so that they are ready to go when training camp starts. More important than that, however, is to connect with family, as after all it will be a long six months after this time off when football takes a lot of time. And then thirdly, players just need to stay out of trouble. This is the time of year that many executives and coaches fear, as players are left on their own, and there are always some players around the league who get into trouble during this time off in the summer. The Colts don't want that and can't afford that, so Pagano is urging his players to be smart and make good choices. The Colts emphasized that message especially to the rookies, as Pagano told them that, "when you've got free time, that's usually the time that things happen."
Pagano said that he will talk to his players "a lot" during the dead period and that himself and the rest of the coaching staff will stay close to players, but they can't talk any football. They can ask "how are you doing?" or "how is your family?" but not talk about football - which, Pagano said, makes sense considering this is a dead period.
When August rolls around and the season gets underway, the Colts likely won't mind being in the headlines, as it will likely mean success. During these next seven weeks, however, that's exactly the opposite of what the team wants. They don't want to be in the headlines but rather have their players using the time to spend with family and stay in shape.