I really do enjoy training camp and the preseason, much more than the average fan (or even the average analyst). I love tracking bottom-of-the roster players in preseason and watching the roster battles pan out.
But the best part about training camp is proximity.
At camp, the players are right there. No longer are they faceless bodies colliding at high speeds below the viewer, but they are 20 yards away, even closer when they come sign autographs. It’s beneficial for a number of reasons, but my favorite part of the close proximity is the interactions that can be viewed.
I wrote about the interaction that I viewed between Robert Mathis and Bjoern Werner earlier this week, but there were a few others that I observed that I wanted to share in an abbreviated manner. Some of the interaction may hold some significance, but others were just moments that fascinated me. With that in mind, here were two more of my favorite observations during my week in Anderson.
Da’Rick Rogers to Matt Hasselbeck: “My bad.”
At one point during an afternoon practice, a pass from Matt Hasselbeck to Da’Rick Rogers fell incomplete. On the play in question, Rogers ran a quick, 5-yard curl route while split out to Hasselbeck’s left (the near side of the field to the fans).
Hasselbeck’s throw sailed wide of Rogers out toward the sideline, as if he expected second-year receiver to run an out. Rogers, who had instinctively lunged toward the uncatchable ball, came up with a slight limp and was visibly frustrated. Ripping his helmet off, he walked toward the sideline and motioned for undrafted rookie Eric Thomas to replace him in the 11-on-11.
With the limp still visible, Rogers grabbed a cup from a nearby waterboy (NOTE: a trainer with water) and then made his way to a man who looked to be Charlie Williams, the Colts’ wide receiver coach. Rogers animatedly said a few things to Williams, gesturing his hands in the air. Williams pulled out a playbook, and the two continued their conversation while pointing to a page.
After the second-team offense had run a few more plays, there was a shift, and Hasselbeck came to the sideline. Immediately, Rogers approached the veteran quarterback, pointed back at his own chest and said “My bad, my bad.”
Hasselbeck waved it off, and then the two went back to Williams and continued their discussion.
It was a reminder, for me, of the fluid relationship that many of the younger players have with the veterans. As much as we think about players and their qualities as static, players–and by extension teams–are ever learning, ever evolving. At its core, football is a game. It’s a game played by men, by college kids, by high schoolers, in junior high and by children. The team dynamics in play in high school often are in play in the NFL.
For people observing practice, it might have just been another incomplete pass. But if you look a little closer you could see an entire evolution of thought for Rogers, a teaching moment for Williams and maybe just a slight bonding moment between the oldest quarterback in the league and a brash second-year receiver.
Arthur Jones: “And-rew! And-rew! And-rew!”
Colts fans are going to love Arthur Jones.
Of course, there’s what he does on the football field. Jones should immediately be the Colts’ most talented defensive lineman, unless Cory Redding finds the fountain of youth. Jones, as I discussed in his free agent profile, is incredibly consistent across all areas of defensive line play.
But there’s also his personality, which was in full bloom at camp.
Jones, like Redding before him, has brought his exuberant on-field personality with him. Both of them are actively talking on the field, but Jones has a certain jubilance about him. Every time I could see his face, he was smiling and laughing.
After practiced ended one afternoon, just a few of the vets came to the fence to sign autographs. Pat McAfee and Matt Overton worked their way down from the north end of the fence, as they usually did. Down toward the south end was Arthur Jones, the only one of the team’s newcomers that signed autographs on that particular day. Andrew Luck, after a few minutes, made his way to the middle where the largest glob of fans grew increasingly louder.
While fans were excited for the autographs of McAfee, Jones and Overton (although I did observe multiple people searching their phones for who No. 45 was after getting the long-snapper’s autograph) the clamoring for Luck was overwhelming.
But as fans surged toward the fence, the screaming from the south end of the fence gradually morphed from frenzied shouting to a synchronized chant.
“And-rew! And-rew! And-rew!”
Jones, with a wide smile across his face, was leading the crowd in the chant. It wasn’t a resentful thing, like he wanted more of the attention. It was playful, innocent. A few minutes later, the chanting subsided and Jones went back to signing autographs.
Eventually, Jones even brought down a small children’s jersey for Luck to sign, and then went back to his post down the fence.
I tweeted about what had happened, and somebody said “We’re really going to like him, huh?”
Yes. Yes, we are.