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Chris Ballard says Colts will have a “physical” training camp this year

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NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, head coach Chuck Pagano explained that the Colts have been having conversations about possibly having more live tackling in training camp this year, saying that there might be some periods in which they go live.

While the details of how that might play out seem to still be fluid, general manager Chris Ballard made it even clearer in an interview with Bob Lamey last week: it will be a physical training camp in Indianapolis.

“I think this will be - we’ve had long talks with the staff, had long talks with Chuck [Pagano] - this will be a physical camp for us,” Ballard said. “We’ve got a young football team and you need to spar. I think you need to spar. And I think we will. I think we will have a physical camp, and I think you need to. I think it helps as you get your body ready, I think a lot of the problems we have is that we don’t hit enough. You’re always worried about injuries, but this is football, and it’s a physical game. And much like boxing, you’ve got to spar. Your body’s got to get prepared for the grind and hits of the season that it’s going to endure. And if your body doesn’t get used to that in camp, then I think that’s when things fall off during the season.”

That’s significant because in the Chuck Pagano era the Colts have been very hesitant to utilize live tackling in training camp. There’s been some hitting at times, but that normally just consists of wrapping a player up. Pagano and the Colts haven’t wanted to utilize live tackling because of the injury risks. The Colts already deal with a number of injuries each year and they have tried various things to attempt to limit those injuries, but nothing has worked. With so many injuries anyway, the Colts haven’t wanted to risk any additional or unnecessary ones by having live periods in camp. But Chris Ballard said that while you worry about injuries, the fact of the matter is that it’s football.

In other words, what Ballard is saying could also represent a bit of a culture shift: while the team will be cognizant of injury risks, they’re not going to be playing scared anymore when it comes to those situations. Injuries are a part of football, and that plays into what Ballard emphasises with competition: it’s important to have depth.

It remains to be seen just how much hitting and tackling happens during training camp, as after all the entire thing can’t be hitting. But it sounds like we should expect the Colts to at least utilize live tackling and more physicality at their practices more often, which should hopefully help the defense. The Colts have been really bad at tackling in recent years, so hopefully the increased time actually being able to tackle in training camp helps that area of the team next season.