When Colts quarterback Andrew Luck met with the media on Saturday after arriving to Anderson University for training camp, he compared the first day of training camp to Christmas because of all of the excitement that comes with both events. And that is indeed the reason why this time of year is an awesome one throughout the NFL - the excitement abounds in every NFL city and every team is on a level playing field when it comes to their record.
Not every team is on a level playing field when it comes to their roster, however, and that leads to the expectations and excitement for some teams feeling like nothing more than words. For the Colts, however, it's a reality. One thing is clear for them, and it's the same thing that has been clear all offseason: the Indianapolis Colts have one goal in 2015, and it's to win the Super Bowl. But every team would tell you that's their goal; not every team, however, has a realistic shot to make it come true. The expectations for the Colts are not unfounded but rather are realistic, as many consider them to be among the favorites to not just win the AFC Championship but the Super Bowl as well.
Punter Pat McAfee summed it up better than anyone when he spoke to the media on Saturday. "The first guy I saw [upon arriving to camp] was Frank Gore," McAfee told the media, as the Indianapolis Star's Stephen Holder recorded. "And you think, ‘Oh, I get to play on a team with Frank Gore. He's pretty damn good.' And you say, ‘Who's the quarterback? Oh, Andrew Luck is the freaking quarterback.' And then you say, ‘Man, there's Andre Johnson and T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief, Griff Whalen, a whole new O-line.' The defense is ready to rock. We're ready to do this thing.
"I'm excited to be here and this is just gonna be a fun year and a fun camp," McAfee continued. "I'm so lucky to be a part of it. As soon as I saw that we signed Andre Johnson and Frank Gore... I kind of looked in the mirror and said, ‘Probably not a lot of punts for you this year, buddy.'"
Last year, the Colts made it to the doorstep of the Super Bowl but were then embarrassed by the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game. The core of the team was good enough (Andrew Luck and others, like T.Y. Hilton, Vontae Davis, Anthony Castonzo, etc.), but the supporting cast needed to be improved. That's exactly what general manager Ryan Grigson set out to do this offseason by adding veterans Frank Gore, Andre Johnson, and Trent Cole, supplementing that with the exciting addition of rookies Phillip Dorsett, D'Joun Smith, Henry Anderson, and others. It's a team that the Colts think and hope is good enough to make that final leap past the Patriots, past the AFC Championship game, and into the Super Bowl.
"I think we have a great team," Andre Johnson told the media, as FOX59's Mike Chappell noted. "It looks good on paper. But if we don't go out and play the way we should play, it's not going to happen.''
That's a common theme that you'll hear from the Colts: the team looks really good, but the championship won't just be handed to them. Instead, they'll have to focus on playing the games and not buying too much into the hype. They need to do their jobs.
"We do a good job of blocking all of that out and kind of letting the hype be an external thing,'' starting right tackle Jack Mewhort noted. "We focus on ourselves.''
Quarterback Andrew Luck shared the same sentiments. "You ignore the outside expectations,'' the star quarterback, a legitimate MVP candidate for 2015, said on Saturday. "The expectations inside have been there since day 1, since I've been here. They've always been high. They've always been (to) get to the playoffs and give yourself a chance to go win a Super Bowl. That hasn't changed regardless of what anybody else will say. But we've got to get better and give ourselves a chance to win some football games.''
Adam Vinatieri, the Colts' kicker who knows a thing or two about winning championships (he has four Super Bowl rings and countless other accolades), shared the same general idea: the Colts have to play well and earn it. "When we starting building this [in 2012], we had high expectations," the 42-year old kicker, who is entering his 20th season in the NFL, said Saturday. "We expected to win and we've continued to build on that. We've got a great team, but no one's going to give us anything. We have to go out and earn it."
These are the 2015 Indianapolis Colts: confident enough to know that their team has a great chance to win but yet humble enough to know that it won't just be handed to them. If the team can maintain this mindset and truly tune out the outside distractions, it will help lead to the perfect mindset entering the season.
The Colts are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, led by a young quarterback who is already among the league's best at the position. The offense is filled with plenty of playmaking skill players and has the potential to be the best unit in the NFL. The defense is filled with many more questions marks, but they still have the chance to be improved from the unit last year. And then, of course, the special teams units are fantastic behind the best kicking duo in the entire league.
For several teams around the NFL, training camp is filled with excitement, but any talk of the Super Bowl feels like nothing more than empty words that they're supposed to say. That's not the case in
Indianapolis Anderson, where the Colts are entering the 2015 season with massive expectations - and a team that might actually be able to reach them.