The Indianapolis Colts have a long history of being extremely cautious with their star players. Any player who is likely to make a significant impact on the team’s success in a coming season will routinely start training camp on the physically unable to perform (PuP) list.
One player with a distinguished history under this policy is Bob Sanders. The fact that both Sanders and Gonzalez, who both had health questions or concerns leading to a great deal of speculation and discussion over the summer, enter training camp as active camp participants says a lot about how the team views their physical condition for the coming season.
Even if the Colts should choose to place either player on the PuP list later, it would signal more of a precautionary measure and less of a setback (absent specific information suggesting a setback). It would be entirely inconsistent with the teams practices for them to allow both players to open training camp active if they believe they are in any danger of missing the start of the regular season.
Though this occurrence has been relatively brushed over, garnering only a brief mention from the Associated Press on Sunday, the implications are significant. Two of the biggest upgrades for the Colts over 2009, a season falling just short of a second championship, are both already mixing it up, competing, and actively preparing to make a difference in 2010.
A lot has been made of what promises to be an intense competition between Gonzalez, Garçon, and Collie for the starting receiver positions. Michael Lombardi suggested that Bob Sanders was so physically broken that he would be forced to retire.
Now, the biggest Colts defensive impact player not named Freeney is entering training camp the same way he entered organized team activities and mini-camp, as an active participant. It seems no one expected Sanders to start training camp active, but he took the field on Sunday.
Gonzalez entered the 2009 season as the unquestioned number two on the receiving depth chart, lining up opposite Reggie Wayne. I believe that he had a very strong chance to surpass 1,000 yards receiving for the first time in his career. Instead, lightning struck and Gonzalez would sit miss the entire season with a catastrophic knee injury, which he suffered while running his first route of the regular season.
Now he will join two very exciting receivers who started to build a rapport with Manning last year. Collie was the most productive rookie receiver in the 2009 draft class, on offense. Garçon was quite possibly the the biggest story in the NFL for the middle third of the season.
If you are an Indianapolis Colts fan and you are not excited by this news, you are missing out. This could be a very good omen and if both players make it all the way through training camp, spending time with teammates on their respective sides of the ball, the Colts will be noticeably more powerful offensively and defensively when the season opens in September.