INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL offseason schedule was released Friday, but the course already had been put in place.
The Indianapolis Colts would place added emphasis on the initial phase of their preparation for the 2022 season, which begins April 18.
The past few offseasons in the NFL – like virtually every other aspect of life – were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. There were Zoom meetings and truncated workouts.
The Colts fell in line with other teams last spring and agreed to scale down the normal 10-week offseason to two consecutive weeks of low-tempo on-field work. The normal mandatory minicamp in mid-June was cancelled.
General manager Chris Ballard and coach Frank Reich determined in January – and after the team’s historic implosion at the end of last season – the best approach to the upcoming offseason was a return to normalcy.
“The uncertainty of last year affected it,” Ballard said in January, “but we will have an offseason. You can bet on that.”
It remains voluntary except for the June 7-9 mandatory minicamp, but Ballard essentially put the onus on the players.
“They don’t want to show up? Fine, but we’re gonna be here and guys that want to win are gonna be here,” he said. “We’re going to have an offseason.”
“I think every step along the way matters,” Ballard added. “OTAs matter. Between the summer (and) getting ready for training camp; every step along the way matters. You’ve got to be together. You’ve got to work. It takes what it takes to win. It does.”
“There’s no magic pill for winning. There’s not. There’s not a magic pill we can all take and make everything good. It takes sacrifice, it takes accountability, it takes discipline, it takes coming together as a team.”
- Offseason workout program: begins April 18
- Organized team activities (OTAs): May 24-26, June 1-3, June 13-16
- Mandatory minicamp: June 7-9
There also will be a rookie minicamp following the April 28-30 NFL Draft.
The offseason work figures to carry increased importance to Ballard and Reich, as they once again are moving forward with a new quarterback. Matt Ryan, acquired in a March trade with Atlanta to replace Carson Wentz, is the fifth straight different starter as Reich heads into his fifth season.
Other changes must be dealt with as well, including losing top front-line guards Mark Glowinski and Chris Reed, the retirement of tight end Jack Doyle, the loss of wideouts T.Y. Hilton (still unsigned) and Zach Pascal (signed with Philadelphia) and the loss of cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (sent to the Raiders as part of a trade that delivered defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to the roster).
The Colts also must regroup and move on following their closing losses to the Las Vegas Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars that kept them out of the playoffs. The 26-11 meltdown against the Jaguars – the worst team in the league with a 2-14 record entering the game – was especially embarrassing.
“We’ve got to find out why we bled out in Jacksonville,’’ Ballard said. “We’ve got to figure that out.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.