By Tom James
With nearly one week of training camp in the books for the Indianapolis Colts, Jim Caldwell likes the way his team has come together in a short period of time. But the first-year head coach says that the Colts remain very much a work in progress.
“Things have gone along fairly well. We think we’ve gotten most things done that we want to try and get accomplished at this time. We certainly haven’t done as well as we’d like. But that is what practice is for. But I think things are progressing nicely,” Caldwell said after Thursday’s special teams workout.
“One of the things we talk about is that we want to make certain that we come out and have a little bit better practice than we had the practice before. That, indeed, is the key. You don’t want to repeat mistakes. And I think our guys have been doing a pretty good job of minimizing those things. We’re going to have a few busts here and there. But as time goes on, the closer we get to game time, obviously we want to eliminate those things that will beat us.”
• Good shape — The Colts came out of Wednesday night’s practice in pretty good shape physically. Cornerback Kelvin Hayden was held out of the workout as a precaution but returned for Thursday’s workout.
Tight end Dallas Clark appeared to have hurt his right hand prior to catching a touchdown pass from quarterback Peyton Manning. Clark, however, practiced the rest of the night without any apparent problems the rest of the way.
• Less time for Sorgi — A year ago at this time, Jim Sorgi was the man at quarterback during training camp for the Colts.
Sorgi has been Manning’s primary backup at the position since he was drafted in the sixth round of the 2004 National Football League draft. He got most of the work with the first team offense last summer because Manning was recovering from surgery to remove an infected bursa sac from his left knee.
But with the three-time NFL Most Valuable Player now fully healthy, the former Wisconsin signal caller — who incurred a knee injury of his own during the preseason last year — has seen his camp practice reps cut significantly.
“[As] with any quarterback here, opportunities in the system are going to be limited. You get quite a few during preseason, but very rarely in camp have we had a lot of playing time. So it was good for him to get his feet wet [in last year’s camp] and have an opportunity to lead the team and direct it. I think he developed some confidence,” Caldwell pointed out.
As of now, there are only three quarterbacks in camp — Manning, Sorgi and former Purdue starter Curtis Painter. All three will get work in the preseason, with Sorgi and Painter most likely to get the majority of the playing time.
• How to practice — Caldwell says that there is a difference between having a contact practice and a workout with full-speed live hitting.
“Well, it’s a fine line because sometimes [a live hit is] going to happen. A guy might anticipate someone is stepping in a little different direction and you’ll get a pretty heavy collision, and that can’t be avoided. So sometimes that’s going to happen,” he said this week.
“But for the most part we try and make certain they get in position sometimes to make the big hits but not necessarily have to deliver them all the time. We get a lot of contact in our individual drills, but in our team drills we try and make sure we cut it up but also let them run it out so we can work on our pursuit.”
• Addai rounding back into form — Running back Joseph Addai appears to be fine after undergoing minor knee surgery earlier this spring.
Addai saw limited work during the team’s spring organized team activities or minicamps, but he’s held up well during the first four days of training camp.
“He looks good. Joseph is coming along well. He’s moving it and his quickness is where it’s been in terms of overall quickness. He’s getting a little bit [better] every day. I think he’s feeling comfortable after his time off,” Caldwell said.
After rushing for a NFL career-low 544 yards a year ago, Addai says that he is ready to get back to work.
“I think the biggest thing to focus on is that it’s a new year. Regardless, in football [or] life, regardless we have a chance to start over so you have to take something positive out of it. That’s the positive thing, is that you can start over and kind of work on those small things,” he said this week.
“I wish it would’ve been better [last year], yeah, but I think those kind of things in life make you stronger [to] see how you can handle it after the fact.”
• Freeney likes Coyer — Count defensive end Dwight Freeney as a fan of new Colts defensive coordinator Larry Coyer.
“He’s old school. He’s completely different from [former Indianapolis defensive coordinator Ron] Meeks. But he has his own style and he’s old school. I like to sit down there with him because he has so much knowledge and so much experience, so you can kind of pick his brain. That’s what I like to do. I like to sit there and talk to him,” Freeney said this week.
“When I say old school, I say old school from the standpoint of he’s been around. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he coaches old school. Times have changed and things change in the game, and he’s been great so far at changing times. He likes to get the guys that want to make plays in a position to make plays.”
• Mudd needed, Saturday says — Veteran center Jeff Saturday enjoys being around the team’s longtime offensive line coach. Mudd and offensive coordinator Tom Moore both missed the Colts’ organized team activities and minicamps after retiring unexpectedly this past spring.
“He [Mudd] has a very interesting way of getting his point across, and to be very frank, I think we need it right now. We did not play well as an offensive line last year. Our run game was probably the worst in the league, and we have to be better than that,” Saturday said recently.
“I think it’s going to take a coach like that, calling players out and getting players motivated and ready to get our jobs done to get this thing turned around and get the ship righted.”
• Mortensen in town today — Senior ESPN analyst Chris Mortensen will be at training camp today. Mortensen’s visit is part of his “20 NFL Training Camps in 24 Days” tour.
He is traveling the country in a motor home as he provides updates and league news reports for SportsCenter, NFL Live and ESPN News. His tour, which began in Dallas on July 31, will span some 6,400 miles and will conclude Aug. 23 in Miami, which will host Super Bowl XLIV in February.
• NFL officials work camp — Four National Football League game officials are working training camp with the Colts. The four — referee Walt Anderson, side judge Allen Baynes, field judge Jimmy Buchanan, and head linesman Mark Baltz — have been joined at the camp by retired league official Tom Finken.
After working Wednesday night’s practice, the group will stay in town through Saturday morning’s mock game. In addition to working the practices and controlled scrimmages, they will also meet with Colts players and coaches to go over rule changes and the league’s officiating points of emphasis for the 2009 season.
Among the things that officials will be watching closely this year are the continued increase in horse collar tackles and taunting by players.