Colts Camp Live with defensive end Tarell Basham and IndyStar’s Zak Keefer

WESTFIELD, Ind. – Colts Camp Live returned Thursday with another episode.

IndyStar's Zak Keefer and second-year defensive end Tarell Basham joined host Chris Widlic to talk all things Colts.

The team shed the pads for Thursday’s practice in sharp contrast to the padded, physical practices we’ve seen lately. Andrew Luck didn’t throw during Thursday’s session because it was his day off. The quarterback worked on handoff drills.

Keefer said he believes Luck may be further along in his recovery than anyone expected. Offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said Luck has a much better touch on his passes than the team anticipated—and Keefer’s seen it firsthand.

“He’s got it. You could see it on the deep throws in yesterday’s practice. He was dropping in 30-yarders down the sideline to T.Y. Hilton and I didn’t expect him to be able to make those touch throws until maybe week two or week three. Ahead of progress for No. 12, that’s always a good thing around here,” Keefer said.

How much time will Luck spend on the field during next week’s preseason game? Keefer expects at least a couple series and thinks Luck will play more in the first game of the preseason than in years past because he has to knock off some rust.

Keefer and Widlic talked about the close relationship Luck has forged with new head coach Frank Reich. Reich, an NFL quarterback for 14 seasons, brings a different perspective than former Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who had more of a defensive mentality.

Keefer said Luck and Reich talk a lot. Even on an off day Monday, Luck called Reich so they could talk about each throw he’s made so far in camp. It’s perspective the defensive-minded Pagano couldn’t provide.

“[Reich] sees the game the way that Andrew sees the game, and I know for a fact that Andrew is really, really enjoying that,” Keefer said. “Ten minutes don’t go by in practice without them chatting.”

Reich has been watching Luck closely and making sure he adheres to subtle changes in his throwing motion.

Left tackle Anthony Castonzo returned to practice this week, meaning the starting o-line unit has been able to work together for the first time in camp. Keefer isn’t sure if the current group—Castonzo, Quenton Nelson (left guard), Ryan Kelly (center), Matt Slauson (right guard) and Austin Howard (right tackle)—will open the season in their current positions.

While Castonzo, Nelson and Kelly look like locks, Keefer believes there may be some movement on the right side of the line depending on how players perform in camp and preseason games. Overall, he believes it’s a much deeper unit than in the past, even with the sudden retirement of Jack Mewhort.

“Jack wasn’t the same player the last couple of years. He’d be the first to tell you that,” Keefer said. “He signed a one-year deal loaded with incentives to be on the field. We never even got close to that. He wasn’t the same in camp. It’s really just a reminder of how brutal the game can be.”

The decision to retire was difficult for Mewhort, Keefer said, but the lineman’s knees were basically shot due to injuries over the past few seasons.

Basham, a second-year player out of Ohio University, is excited for the Colts’ transition from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3, which is the system he played in college. Basham said he learned a lot during his rookie season, but perhaps the most important aspect of his development is in his diet.

He admitted he lived near a Wendy’s in college, which formed some bad eating habits. Now he’s doing a better job of taking care of his body, avoiding cheese, red meat, and alcohol while watching his fat intake. It’s made a big difference—he’s leaner and healthier.

Basham’s battling with John Simon and working to become a fierce pass rusher for the defense. He’s excited to work with new defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, a coach who has a seemingly endless amount of energy.

“Having ‘Flus’ around, you can tell the vibe on the defense and how we just bring it every day. How we hustle. How we hit. You can tell it’s something different, it’s something special. I really like ‘Flus.’ He’s a great coach.”

Basham described Colts legend Robert Mathis as a mentor and coach as he works to improve his pass rush.

“He’s one of the best ever to do it as far as pass rushing goes and getting strip-sacks,” Basham said. “He loves to coach us up on that. How to get that last extra inch or half a second we need to get there and get the quarterback.”

Basham also talked with Widlic about his fondness for soccer. He said Barcelona was his favorite team and Lionel Messi his favorite player, calling him “the best to ever do it.”

Widlic and Keefer closed out the program by talking about the physical training camp the Colts are holding. The change, Keefer said, was mandated by GM Chris Ballard, who doesn’t think the Colts have been physical enough in recent seasons.

Players like the change—Basham called it “physical as hell”—but it’s starting to pay dividends. Skirmishes on the field have been common and tempers are flaring.

“That’s good. You want to see that fire. It’s been curtailed a little bit in years past, but not this year,” Keefer said.

Here's the full schedule for the webcast, which you can find on FOX59.com, IndyStar.com and FOX59's Facebook and Twitter pages.