If you’ve been to a Colts training camp practice in recent years, you’re familiar with the drill: most practices are not in full pads but just in shells, and there is very little live contact. Sure, there’s contact, but it’s not live tackling. Players hit and wrap up, but that’s it.
That’s been Chuck Pagano’s philosophy, but it’s something that he’s considering changing for this year’s training camp.
“We’ve talked long and hard about that,” he said yesterday. “You’re always scared to death, but at the same time if you don’t tackle, it’s hard to get good at tackling. We do, obviously, a lot of what we call thud. It’s first contact, it’s wrap up and you try to stay off the ground as much as you can and take care of each other. But we’ll continue to have discussions regarding that and there may be some periods come training camp that we decide we want to go live here. Again, until you do that, you get to the preseason and usually that first or second preseason game is an eye-opener for a lot of the guys, especially the young guys until they adapt to the speed of the game.”
The CBA does have something to say about contact in practice, but it permits more than the Colts have done. What the CBA mainly limits is when the padded practices and contact occurs, as teams aren’t allowed to wear pads until their third training camp practice, and after that can only be in pads for one practice per day. But it permits more live hitting than the Colts have done.
Before fans are quick to criticize the Colts for this, however, keep in mind the reason they haven’t done it: in an effort to keep players healthy. Another thing that Colts fans have complained about over the years is the rate of injuries the team suffers, which is indeed quite high. The Colts realize this too, and they’ve tried various things to try to limit those injuries from happening. So far, it hasn’t really worked, but that’s the thinking behind less live hitting in training camp.
As Pagano noted, however, that means that it’s more of a wake up call for players when the preseason hits, and it means that there’s less time for the players to actually work on tackling - something everyone watching the team knows they need desperately. Their tackling has been really bad in recent years, and that’s why utilizing more live tackling periods in camp would make sense.
At the end of the day, even if we see more live tackling in camp, it still won’t be all the time. But trying to use it a bit more and be intentional about working on that area could help out the Colts defense, and it seems that the Colts might be willing to take the injury risk to help improve their tackling.