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INDIANAPOLISFinally, Shane Steichen is going to get his first real taste of being an NFL head football coach.

And by this it means Colts players are coming back to Indianapolis for the start of the team’s nine-week offseason program on Monday.

The Colts will hold a voluntary minicamp April 24-26 (something teams can do before the draft with a first-year head coach), and then a mandatory minicamp June 13-15 to conclude the spring work. They’ll have 10 voluntary OTA sessions on the following dates: May 23-25, May 31-June 2, June 5-8.

Just a reminder on the rules for the offseason program:

Phase One consists of the first two weeks of the program with activities limited to meetings, strength and conditioning, and physical rehabilitation only (per NFL).

Phase Two consists of the next three weeks of the program. On-field workouts may include individual or group instruction and drills, as well as “perfect play drills,” and drills and plays with offensive players lining up across from offensive players and defensive players lining up across from defensive players, conducted at a walk-through pace. No live contact or team offense vs. team defense drills are permitted (per NFL).

Phase Three consists of the next four weeks of the program. Teams may conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity, or “OTAs”. No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are permitted (per NFL).

Here are 5 things I’m watching for as the Colts offseason program begins:

1. Steichen’s Message

When the Colts gather on Monday for their voluntary offseason program, it’ll be Shane Steichen’s first chance to hold a team meeting.

Typically, participation from players this time of year is north of 90 percent, and very close to 100 percent.

So, Steichen is about to lead his first NFL team meeting and finally get the chance to instill his message/voice into a team where culture questions have risen quite a bit in the past year.

How will the Colts respond to a direct and concise communicator in Steichen?

Unit wise, the defensive tone should be familiar with Gus Bradley and his assistants retained.

But the offensive staff is extremely young—something Steichen wanted—and new special teams coordinator Brian Mason has never coached in the NFL.

2. Shaquille Leonard’s Health

From a medical standpoint, outside of Jonathan Taylor rehabbing off ankle surgery, the Shaquille Leonard back injury has dominated the headlines for the past year or so.

Leonard was pretty upbeat a few months ago about what the second back surgery has done for him.

With the loss of Bobby Okereke, the Colts really need Leonard to be healthy in 2023 and offer that playmaking/4th quarter closing ability they lacked.

It remains to be seen if Leonard will do anything team wise when the Colts get on the field for OTAs in late May.

3. Installing What Offense?

A common theme for Shane Steichen this offseason has been preaching an offense centered around the strengths of the quarterback and catering to his skillset.

Well, when the Colts convene on Monday, they’ll still be two and a half weeks away from the draft, and presumably the looming quarterback selection at No. 4 overall.

It’s going to be interesting to see the offense Steichen looks to install early on and how that tweaks if/when a QB is chosen.

Of course, if/when that happens, then the next question will be how many first-team reps will the rookie get. Does that start in the spring? Wait until training camp?

And that’s why Gardner Minshew’s role in Indy remains an unknown until the Colts create a clearer picture for their rookie QB.

4. Playing Time Chances

Speaking of playing time, the Colts are replacing another half dozen starters from last year’s team.

You have the losses of Stephon Gilmore, Bobby Okereke, Yannick Ngakoue and Parris Campbell which top the list of losses.

For the likes of Isaiah Rodgers Sr./Dallis Flowers, E.J. Speed, Samson Ebukam and Isaiah McKenzie/Ashton Dulin, this spring offers great opportunities to secure some playing time, or get a head start on those battles before camp arrives at Grand Park.

The draft will bring some other names into these battles, of course.

But you still have non locked-in starting jobs at tight end, right guard and safety, to go along with the names/positions listed above.

5. On Field Work

As pointed out, the nine-week offseason program includes phases.

It builds to full-team activities, with 10 voluntary OTA sessions spread across three weeks in late-May and early-June. And then the mandatory 3-day minicamp June 13-15 to end the nine-week program.

That’s the on-field portion of the spring.

When you are a franchise who has gone a full-decade since last winning a season-opener, and you have a new head coach, this time of year is precious and important to try and make the most of it.

It’ll be another glimpse into Steichen as a head coach, away from the meeting rooms, which will receiver the bulk of the April attention.

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