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INDIANAPOLIS – For the first time this offseason, Colts players are together in Indianapolis and working on the field in front of their coaches.

That work will last for just two weeks though.

With players all around the NFL hesitant to committing to the normal portion of the spring offseason program (10 voluntary OTA sessions and 3 mandatory minicamp days), Colts players and the organization came together on an agreement for two weeks of in-person work this year.

Players will get in individual work this week and next, with coaches on the field. That will not expand to teamwork, 11-on-11 and offensive vs. defense, still without full pads, even though teams can hold those sessions (if players agree to them) next week.

Colts players will then forego all the voluntary OTAs and the, typically, mandatory minicamp.

Instead of the 13 possible non-padded practices teams can get in this time of year, the Colts will not hold any of those, only individual work (routes vs. air, positional drills, etc).

On Monday, NFLPA player rep Ryan Kelly commented on the altered spring offseason program schedule, which he talked through on the players’ behalf with Frank Reich to reach this decision.

“It was a way to give guys the summer off,” Kelly, who is heading into his 6th NFL season, said. “Go back in June and July and train and get ready for the season and get their bodies right. But also, we are getting in here for 2 weeks. This is all voluntary, all optional, nothing mandated by the team, but I think this is the best of both worlds. We get to be working out, be on the field, it’s still going through individual, but it’s no possibility of going against a defense and getting an unnecessary helmet against a shoulder or what not.

“I think Frank and Chris (Ballard) both understand the challenges that are ahead with 17 games and were very fair with us. I think this is the best possibility that I’ve seen out of anybody in the NFL right now.”

Compared to some NFL teams, the Colts are actually doing more in-person work this spring. But it still is a stark contrast to a normal, non COVID-impacted, year.

“I’m confident that we’ll get a lot of work done in these two weeks,” Reich said on Monday, in his first time seeing his 2021 team on the practice field. “We just work through it. (Ballard and Reich) worked through it with the players. Just to try and find something it worked. There’s no perfect solution. You trust each other. You say, ‘What’s the objective here? We need to get some time. New coaches. New quarterback. What’s a reasonable solution to this, where we can do what we need to do, to take the steps at this time that you want to take?’

“I just appreciated Ryan and how the rest of our players handled it as far as talking to us. We started from a point of trust, where it was nobody trying to manipulate the conversation or the way it was going to go. Let’s just talk about what we can get done, ‘How do we do it? What’s the best way to do it? And we eventually came to the solution that we did.”

Players are in the building for just 4 hours per day these two weeks, with about 90 minutes to two hours spent on the field.

While players pushing back on attendance this time of year is understandable, it does the hurt rookies and fringe roster players wanting/needing to make an impression on the staff. It also hinders the team sessions a new QB like Carson Wentz would normally get.

“I definitely think this is a great compromise between us players and the front office, coaching staff,” veteran defensive tackle DeForest Buckner added. “Getting this light two weeks in before June starts, being able to have those 8 weeks to ourselves and being able to prepare and get our bodies right before the long season, I think it’s the perfect adjustment.”

Here are some other takeaways from what was learned on Monday:

  • Carson Wentz did not participate on Monday as he ‘felt under the weather.’ Frank Reich said the illness is not COVID-related and the Colts hope it’s just a 24-hour absence for their new QB. T.Y. Hilton has already thrown once with Wentz and came away impressed. “It was on the money,” Hilton said of the ball Wentz threw. “He has a big arm. He likes to throw it.” Hilton said the plan is for the pass catchers and Wentz to get together later this summer, during the break before camp.

 

  • A rehabbing Eric Fisher was present on Monday, meeting many of his new teammates. Quenton Nelson has met Fisher before and actually played next to him at the 2019 Pro Bowl. “I was really happy with getting Fish,” Nelson said on Monday. “He’s a great guy, just meeting him a couple of times before this and meeting him today. He’s smart. He’s a good player. He’s been in a good system with the Chiefs. Really excited already from talks with him to get to work with him and build that chemistry up.” Nelson said he preferred to stay at left guard, like he will do, but would have moved to left tackle if the team thought it was the best move. Frank Reich also added on Monday that moving Nelson to left tackle was pretty far down the Colts’ options list at left tackle this offseason.

 

  • Going back to Wentz, Frank Reich knows there’s pressure on the head coach’s shoulders for this to work out. It was Reich who was very outspoken in vouching for the trade for Wentz and really wanting Chris Ballard to get it done. “Absolutely,” Reich acknowledged when asked about the pressure there with him being such an advocate for Wentz. “I think it’s a collaborative effort that we work with Carson, but when you stick your neck out for players as a head coach, as a GM, or a scout, or coach, we all do it. Obviously as a head coach you have a little bit more say in it, then maybe a position coach. But that’s what you love about it. I love sticking my neck out for people that I believe in. So I’m willing to put it on the line for players that you believe in. I believe in this team and I believe in Carson. So I feel good about it. I do know that his play that will reflect the work that he does, the work that our team does, the work that our staff does, all in preparation. I don’t mind being the point person on that.”

 

  • We will have more on this later in the offseason, but Chris Ballard sees a lot of body type comparisons to DeForest Buckner (6-7, 295) and Dayo Odeyingbo (6-6, 276), especially with their wingspan. “Definitely have a similar build,” Buckner says of the 2nd round pick, who he has watched on film. “Length is definitely really good, especially at our position, being able to get that extension off of O-lineman. He definitely kind of reminded me of myself back in college. He definitely has a future at defensive end. The way he plays, too. He plays with a lot of effort and I love that because I’m the same way. I’m excited for when he gets healthy and we can start working together hands-on.” Buckner said on Monday that the nagging ankle injury he played through late last season is feeling much better after rest and rehabbing since the season ended.

 

  • The signs are pointing to the Colts returning to Grand Park for training camp. “Strong indications that we should be good,” Reich said on Monday of returning to Grand Park. “We look forward to getting back up there, but we have not gotten the final, final vote of absolute yet, but we should be good.” After having to go away from Grand Park last year due to COVID, the Colts want to be up in Westfield again for camp (they camped at Grand Park in 2018 and 2019). It remains to be seen what attendance would look like for camp, which is expected to start in late July. The Colts originally signed a 10-year contract to hold camp at Grand Park.