The Indianapolis Colts had a beautiful day to host their first padded practice. Themed “Kids Day,” young people from all over were yelling out for their favorite players and lining up at the railing to get as close to the action as possible.
When Andrew Luck made his way out to the sideline, kids nearby were desperately yelling his name to get some kind of acknowledgment. Other popular players were Eric Ebron, T.Y. Hilton and Quenton Nelson. Each player took the time to acknowledge the kids, waving and interacting with the fans in their own ways.
This is perhaps the coolest thing about training camp. It doesn’t take a season-long investment in tickets to gain access and there is likely not a better opportunity Colts fans can get for face-to-face interactions and autographs. It makes the whole atmosphere a lot of fun.
Saturday, the entire team made their way over to the stands following practice to sign autographs. A nice way to give back to fans that led to smiling faces as the crowd walked back to their cars to head home.
I’ve attended Colts training camp off and on since I was a about 10 years old. During that time, I’ve seen practice run in a variety of ways and the fan access has changed dramatically. I’ve watched players who are all business, those who like to get a little chippy, and those who clearly take time out of their work to have some fun.
Over the last two decades, no player has stood out as having more fun or loving the game of football more than Eric Ebron.
On the sidelines, Ebron is laughing and having a good time with his teammates. He is clearly close to T.Y. Hilton and has a fun relationship with Darius Leonard.
In an earlier training camp practice, Ebron made a catch over the middle of the field and Leonard punched the ball free for a fumble late in the play. At that point, Ebron had essentially eased up and considered the play over. Leonard had a little fun.
On Saturday, Ebron made another catch over the middle and Leonard came up to punch the ball out late in the play. Ebron was ready and secured the ball all the way back to the offensive huddle. On his way back, Ebron gave Leonard a “Mutombo finger wave” and let him know that wouldn’t happen again.
Even after practice was over, Ebron made himself available for an interview. He approached the media with a big smile and joked that many media members had already left the area. He yelled out in the general direction of the media, jokingly making it clear that he was ready to answer questions and if they didn’t make it over soon they were going to miss their chance.
In his interview, Ebron candidly discussed what is so special about the team. He was asked about personal accolades and how focusing on those can sometimes take away from the team, clearly a reference to his goal to break the single-season touchdown record. He responded:
I don’t think we’ve ever worried about individual accolades. I think that’s what makes our team so good. There’s no individual on this team. There isn’t anyone who is like, ‘man I better get this catch right now.’ No. T.Y. don’t care. I don’t care. Jack doesn’t care. Marlon Mack doesn’t care about how many carries [he gets]. We want to win and that’s what I think makes our group so tight-knit. I think that’s what makes it so much fun to come here and work. We don’t care about individual accolades, those come with wins. So, as long as we winning, it doesn’t matter.
Feel free to watch the rest of the interview here:
When Colts fans try to figure out what makes this team special, when the chemistry in the locker room and with the front office and coaching staff starts to dominate the discussion, think about Eric Ebron.
There is little doubt that Ebron’s chances to break the single-season touchdown record will be much harder in 2019 than it would have been a year ago. However, there is no doubt that he loves his team and his teammates love him back. If there is a beacon in the locker room of the kind of love a professional football player should have for the game, the fans, and his peers, Ebron shines the brightest.
Ryan Kelly is another player who clearly likes to have some fun during practice and is one of the leaders on a pretty young group of offensive lineman. He discussed what it was like taking the field for the first padded day of practice, likening himself and the players to baby deer. He then went on to discuss the emphasis on the run game this year and how the offensive line approaches it.
Another player who took the time to meet with media. He discussed some of the things he has had to adjust to in a new defense and new role, that he has primarily been lining up at the Mike (middle linebacker) position. He also responded calmly and professionally to a question about the Stanford allegations that made their way back into the spotlight earlier in the off-season.
BTW - Sorry for the sound quality here. He is speaking away early in the video and the wind and rattling of the flags on the field goal posts make it difficult to hear.
CAMP NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS
For those who have never attended a training camp practice, it is difficult to fully explain the ballet that occurs spanning two different full size fields.
Practices are timed and each segment has a purpose. There are warm-ups that occur with the whole team on the same field, defense on one side and offense on the others. There are positional and one-on-one drills that breakout with the offense on one field and the defense on the other. Then, there are team drills that occur such as 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 reps where each unit matches up with its counterpart, first team versus first, second team versus second, and so on.
In short, this ballet makes covering the whole team or seeing all of the action impossible. It is was makes it necessary for a small army of media members to be in attendance because they will each have their own perspective and they will split apart to witness different activities around the field.
With that said, here are some of the things that stood out to me.
Numerous players received rest or maintenance days. Those included Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Jack Doyle, Jabaal Sheard (more on him in a minute), Margus Hunt, and Kemoko Turay. They were the most visible.
Following practice, Zak Keefer reported that Sheard’s injury is potentially more serious than we might have originally thought.
Also, it sounds like DE Jabaal Sheard is dealing with what could be a mildly serious injury. Irsay vowed it wasn’t season-ending.— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) July 27, 2019
Imaginations will run wild with that kind of description. The only thing we know is that it has to do with one of his knees and that we should expect that he will miss some time. Whether that time spills over into the regular season or lands him on Injured Reserve is yet to be seen.
Spencer Ware was also on the sideline in a boot, still recovering from his “muscle injury.”
I noted that Quincy Wilson had a cast on his left hand, which is made to protect his thumb.
With numerous defensive players taking the day off, here is the list of starters on the defensive line, along with the second team.
Defensive Line 1 = Muhammed, Autry, Stewart, Houston. Defensive Line 2 = Banogu, Lewis, Ward, Phillips.— Brett Mock (@bamock) July 27, 2019
The players who were most active in the one-on-one drills with the offensive line were Denico Autry and Jihad Ward. Both ended up into the backfield on numerous occasions to disrupt mock run plays.
Autry looked very sharp and gave the starting unit fits at numerous times during team drills, including some nice reps against Quenton Nelson.
- During team drills, Mo Alie-Cox made a nice contested catch over the middle and controlled the ball through hard contact.
- George Odum laid a hard hit on a receiver over the middle to break up a pass.
- One of the most entertaining players to watch in team drills was Rock Ya-Sin, who did not shy away from playing physical at the line of scrimmage and who broke up a pass intended for Devin Funches by getting his hands inside and stripping the ball out before Funchess could secure it.
- Deon Cain made his presence felt numerous times during team drills, including two difficult catches that were low and required him to go to the ground. One was an out near the sideline and the other was over the middle of the field. At one point he took a pretty big hit on a blown screen play but shook it off.
- Le’Raven Clark lined up with the second team offensive line at left tackle.
- E.J. Speed made one of the highlight plays on defense during team drills. The offense was running a designed run outside left but Speed read it the whole way and blew it up well in the backfield.
- Chester Rogers was featured with his patented wide receiver screen. He did a nice job making a move to get some extra yards.
- Nate Hairston made his presence felt more than once in run defense. On one play in particular, Hairston laid a hard hit on Nyheim Hines as he attempted to run the ball to the right inside the right tackle.
- Second-year receiver Steve Ishmael made a number of plays during practice. He had a nice jump-ball, leaping reception over multiple defenders. He later worked very hard to hold his block on a designed outside run to the right.
- There were some bad exchanges between center Jake Eldrenkamp and Phillip Walker that resulted in the ball hitting the ground or throwing off the timing of plays.
In all, it was a great day for football and a fun first day in full pads. The defense often got the best of the offense with Andrew Luck sitting out but there is no doubt the depth on this team will create some very difficult decisions for the front office and coaching staff as the season approaches.