The NFL is back to work. Guys are excited to get on the field again, and everyone feels like a contender. Football doesn’t just happen on Sundays. It’s months of workouts, playbook study, and a perpetual, unremitting workload.
Day in and day out, they hone their craft, choreograph every play for every situation until finally, after OTA’s, and Minicamps, and Training Camp, and some football-like thing known as “preseason,” a whistle blows, a K-ball (kickoff ball) flies into the night sky, and all wonderful, chaotic heck breaks loose (Nothing like opening the season in prime time).
But even now, with 137 days of playbooks, workouts, and practices standing between them and opening weekend, the players are excited and full of optimism. “On paper, we look great,” tight end Dwayne Allen said. “I’m very excited. I’m really eager to get us all out and together and moving around to see how well we mesh together and see what different combinations the coaches come up with to put on the field.”
Andrew Luck expanded on how important these next five months of offseason and preseason work are to the offense. “They’re huge,” he said, “especially when talking about timing and talking about rhythm, consistency and building that with the receivers, talking about the centers, starting to re-build that identity of the offense, who we are. It’ll be friendly competition with our defense as well, so very crucial.”
Yes, he mentioned centers. That’s a position battle we’ll all be watching closely.
Yep, Offseason Means Championship Goal Discussion
From April to September, we’ll probably hear a hundred times that the goal is a championship. They are professionals, after all. It’s every football team’s goal every year, but when your team is as talented as the Colts, it has to be taken seriously.
When asked if he felt the team is doing all they should to take that next step toward a Super Bowl, Robert Mathis took on a tone of urgency. “Yeah, but we need to speed it up a little bit,” he told a reporter. “I’m kind of running out of time around here. I feel that we have the pieces in place, we just have to apply it.”
With the right combination of hard work and luck, the Colts could be one of the few teams fortunate enough to be discussing playoff and championship aspirations well into winter. Besides, whether you look at aging veterans or contract structures in 2015 and beyond, some of these guys really are running out of time. Building for the future is a mirage in the NFL. The time to win is now.
Reggie Wayne Making a Comeback from ACL Surgery
Reggie Wayne has a tough test ahead of him, returning from an ACL tear and subsequent surgery at 35 years old, but his teammates are supremely confident in him. “He’s going to shock the world,” T.Y. Hilton said of Wayne. “I saw him the other day and he looks great, like he never left. It’s just a blessing to have him around.”
“I think there are exceptions to every rule,” Luck added when asked about Wayne’s age. “I think Reggie Wayne is an exception to a lot of rules. We know he’s going to come back and produce at a very high level and we’re all very excited about it.”
As I’ve mentioned before, an oft-cited study published in the early 2000s suggests that backs and wide receivers returning from an ACL surgery typically do so at about 66% of their previous production level.
Last season, Reggie Wayne was on pace for 87 catches and 1150 yards through 16 games (he had 38 for 503 through 7). That would put him at around 57 receptions for 759 yards in 2014 if all else were equal, and those would be fine numbers for a player his age coming off an injury.
Of course, all things are not equal. With the emergence of Hilton and the addition of Nicks, Luck has more options and shouldn’t need to rely on Number 87 as heavily as in the past. Thus, Wayne could see his numbers drop further still, while remaining a productive, efficient receiver.
Remember, not every player is Adrian Peterson (Peterson came back quickly and better than ever after and ACL tear). If Wayne’s numbers dip considerably, he may not be any less reliable, just less relied upon.
Hakeem Nicks, Hakeem Nicks, and more Hakeem Nicks
Free agent signee and former Giant Hakeem Nicks will not wear his familiar 88, the number he’s had throughout his career, for the Colts. Nicks respects the history of the number in Indianapolis with Marvin Harrison, and he decided – with some help – to go with 14. “It’s got some symbolism in it,” he said. “It wasn’t easy letting those eights go but I respect the situation. I moved to 14. My birthday is 1-14-88 so I went from 88 to 14. It’s got some symbolism in it and my daughter picked that number, too, so that’s good.” Okay, that’s just plain cool, letting his daughter pick the new number. Hats off to Hakeem.
The rest of the team, like many fans, are excited to have Nicks on board. Here’s what they had to say in a ‘leftovers’ style list of quotes:
T.Y. Hilton on the addition of Nicks: “He changes it a lot. You can’t just double one guy and a lot of teams don’t have three top corners, so it’s going to be fun out there.”
Luck on Nicks: “I think it’ll be great. Obviously, he’s a Super Bowl winner. He’s a veteran. He knows how to win. I think any time you can add that experience with a phenomenal football player, it really helps us out. I’ve been talking and picking his brain about what it takes to make deep runs and how he likes things. I think it’ll be a great addition here.”
Luck on throwing to Nicks: “Yes, it’s very good. It’s very good to get the rhythm, get the consistency down, get the timing down because I’ve learned, playing two years, that timing is everything in this league. It is so important and when you feel it, you feel the rapport. When T.Y. (Hilton) came on at the end of the year, like it is with Reggie (Wayne), it makes things just feel a little more simple.”
Ahmad Bradshaw on Nicks: “The sky is the limit, man. The guys that we’ve had, and with the additions, it’s tremendous. (Ryan) Grigson has done a great job this offseason picking up the pieces. I think when we all put it together, we can be great this year.”
Bradshaw again: “That’s like my brother. We’ve been through a lot together. We won a championship together and just to have him out there I just know that things will be easier for us in the backfield, as for Andrew (Luck) and the rest of the team.”
Extra Leftovers: Mathis is Still a Pacers Fan & Delano Howell is like Clint Eastwood
The professional media asked some great questions, and the players had a few good quotes that didn’t fit in the rest of the Notebook. So, here you go.
Mathis on his little pep talk for Pacers center Roy Hibbert: “We had a conversation. Game two, I liked where they were. My thing, I was watching more of how they interacted with each other and I was ecstatic just to see how they were getting back to old Pacer basketball, even though it was against my home team, but I’ll take it.”
(Hibbert, via Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports, says Mathis “Got in my grill for 30 minutes” and that it helped.)
DE Arthur Jones, on playing with Cory Redding again: “Yeah, for sure. Cory Redding was my big brother in Baltimore. They had a mentor program there. He mentored me and showed me the ropes and really taught me how to be a professional.”
Hilton on the competition at receiver now with him, Wayne, and Nicks: “It’s going to be a battle, but at the end of the day it’s our job. The main thing for us is just to have fun. Once we’re out there, anything can happen. We’ll just go have fun and let it share around.”
Luck on former Stanford teammate Delano Howell, who likely will compete for a starting job: “Very much the sort of strong, silent type, the Clint Eastwood type. Say a little, do a lot. He’s been that way for a long time which makes it really fun to play with him.”
That’s right. Delano Howell is Clint Eastwood. Hmm…I wonder what his nickname should be, then. (Warning, video not suitable for children).
(Okay, It’s not Do you feel lucky, punk, but everyone’s seen that already, right?)
As always, all quotes are courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts PR Department.