The boys in blue are back in town. After a long and emotional 2012-13 season, the Indianapolis Colts are back their practice facility on 56th Street and preparing for the upcoming season.
There are new faces, rejuvenated smiles, and of course, a certain player that is no longer a rookie, looking forward to his sophomore season.
“I think you look around, and a lot of guys are bigger, stronger, and faster,” said Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
“I know there are a lot of guys who have a lot of pride to work hard and do that. We trust Mr. Grigson and all the moves he makes, and we know that he is bringing in guys that can help us win that can be major contributors and fit in with the locker room. I’m very excited for us and all the new guys once the coaches get on the field so we can get on with the offense. It will be good.”
Luck, who helped guide the Colts to a turnaround 11-5 season during his rookie season, will undoubtedly have high expectations for year two. The franchise quarterback threw for 4,374 yards and finished with 23 touchdowns in the air, earning himself a Pro Bowl selection in February. Nonetheless, his teammates know his expectations will be high, and one defensive end has some stellar advice for him.
“You know what? Bring what you brought last year, but just a little bit better,” said Colts teammate Cory Redding.
“Don’t go out there and try to make Hall of Fame numbers this year. Don’t try to put all of these pressures on top of you from the whole outside word, ‘Oh he did this last year, so he has to blow up this year’. No, no, no, stay steady. This is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to take your time. Do what you did last year, but just a little bit better. Make those throws that you just happened to overthrow. Make the right checks so we can pick up the blitzes. Do all those things that make him right now a superior athlete at this game from his freshman year to his second year, so to speak. See the growth, see the change, and I think he is going to be able to handle that. I think he is going to go out there and step up from what he was able to do tremendous last year because he is that type of guy. He wants to be better, and he wants to make this team better.”
Luck’s new back-up in Matt Hasselback, a veteran entering his fifteenth year in the National Football League, has had limited time so far with the young star. However, having played against him while on the Tennessee Titans, Hasselback does have some pointers already that could help Luck down the road.
“He (Luck) is pretty strong right now,” said Hasselback.
“For me, not really knowing anything right now, it’s just the amount of hits that he takes are unnecessary if you are going to play twenty game seasons. Maybe even more than that for years, years, and years. There are probably some opportunities to cut the hits down, maybe eliminating five hits a game. But I really don’t know right now, but so far he is very, very good at everything that we have talked about so far. He is impressive in every way.”
The upcoming season will bring a new challenge for Luck, though for him it will have a bit of an old flavor to it. New Colts Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton will be replacing Bruce Arians on the sidelines, who was Luck’s old coordinator during his college days at Stanford. So though Luck will be learning running a brand new offense in the professional game, he has a pretty good knowledge of the playbook so far.
“Percentage wise, I think 75% of it is stuff that I knew,” said Luck. “Some of the stuff, like names, sort of changed. I think it helps me, and it helps the other guys having a guy that can sort of talk about it as opposed to all of us learning about it at the same time.”
Colts running back Vick Ballard, who is also entering his second season after averaging 3.9 yards per carry, admits that after a few days that he is still keeping his nose straight into the playbook so he has it all down pat in a couple of weeks. Though Ballard, who is a little motivated by the fact his 3.9 yards per carry wasn’t the nice rounded number of four or more, sees some things in the plays that he already enjoys.
“The scheme that he brings is sort of a gap-scheme,” said Ballard. “That is sort of what I ran in college. Once I get all of the terminology down, I feel like I can really get comfortable with it.”
Aside from getting used to the new offensive schemes and new faces that have joined the team during the off-season, the overall theme in the locker room was just how excited the team was to be back at work.
“You have to be sure there are no days of complacency,” said Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri.
“It is easy to say that we did things last year, and that we could just keep going on to be successful. The only way you are successful is blood, sweat, and tears. That is what we are trying to do now. To know what we did last year to get us to that level, and to know that every day we have to set the bar higher to exceed what we did last year. I think this off-season was good for guys, I think we added depth to a lot of positions, and the draft is only a few weeks away. It will be interesting and fun to see what the guys up front decide to go with. We are all looking forward to the season.”