INDIANAPOLIS -- Last time I was at Lucas Oil Stadium, it was crackling for the AFC Championship Game.
Saturday, for a public minicamp practice, it was a bit different. And by a bit, I mean a lot. About 4,000 people came out, many focused on the half hour of autograph signing before things kicked off.
It’s what you’d expect for a Saturday in June, with players not in pads, not hitting and opening day more than three months away.
People watched the punt returners with special interest as there is new potential at the position. (When they ran two punt drills at once, safety Jamie Silva shockingly failed to measure up to Pat McAfee.) Brandon James was out, while Ray Fisher, Brandon King and Devin Moore fielded balls. It’s a training camp battle likely to be sorted out largely by preseason game performance. Hardly a newsflash here, but McAfee’s leg can be simply electric.
On a day like this, I try to spot kids who look lost. The young quarterbacks had some bad moments, and I am sure there were some young players out there who were unsure of themselves. But they were not especially easy to pick out. At least part of that, I think, is testament to the Colts’ way. They tend to draft and bring in smart guys and I am sure their rookie orientation and early days are quite thorough. While a lot of young guys are brought along slowly and benefit from patience, my sense is the Colts don’t give kids a lot of time to be lost over the basics of how things work.
I don’t believe Peyton Manning likes quiet time during practice, so even when quarterbacks might have some time to kill the Colts signal-callers do some sort of work. We watched while they were stationed at a 15-yard line and Manning, Curtis Painter, Drew Willy and Tim Hiller threw to the back left corner of the end zone. Austin Collie stood there and worked his feet on the boundary as passes arrived. One set of quarterback drops came with an early shoulder fake, and it appeared Manning was coaching the other three on how to make theirs more believable.
Rookie tight end Brody Eldridge figures to be more blocker than pass catcher early on, and I intend to write about him soon. But he appeared a comfortable route runner and pass catcher in the little bit we saw.
I only saw one snap of Jerry Hughes’ work during one-on-one pass rush drills. (Remember, no pads, no real hitting; it’s about speed, footwork and hand placement at this point.) Ryan Diem swallowed the first-rounder up.
No offense to any of the involved parties, but I’m still amazed at this element of springtime NFL: People came to the stadium and whooped and hollered at a Painter completion to Blair White over Jordan Hemby. Will any of them play a meaningful snap this season?
How desensitized am I to ridiculous pricing at professional sports venues? A special that got me a hot pretzel and a decent-sized Diet Coke for $5 felt like larceny.
The last three Colts on the field? Jim Caldwell signed autographs and Bill Polian threw passes to his young grandson. But Moore, the first-year running back from Wyoming, outlasted them both. And one set of lights went off just as he ran down the tunnel. Hope he didn't hold up a bus.