INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano is amazed when he looks at the roster of players available during the team’s organized team activity workouts.
Since the end of the 2012 season, the changes in personnel have been interesting. Gone are players like outside linebacker Dwight Freeney, outside linebacker Jerry Hughes, wide receiver Donnie Avery, cornerback Jerraud Powers, safety Tom Zbikowski, and nose tackle Antonio Johnson.
Veteran free agent additions include safety LaRon Landry, offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus, outside linebacker Erik Walden, defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois, nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin, cornerback Greg Toler, offensive guard Donald Thomas, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and outside linebacker Lawrence Sidbury.
And then there’s the team’s recent draft picks, headlined by outside linebacker Bjoern Werner, center-offensive guard Khaled Holmes, and offensive guard Hugh Thornton.
Overall, there are 35 new players on the Colts roster during OTAs that weren’t on the squad when last season concluded.
“Participation has been outstanding. We’re making progress,” Pagano said Wednesday after the team’s fifth OTA workout of the spring.
“Our goal is to come out here with the intention of getting better at something every day individually, as position groups, offense, defense, special teams. And as a team. We feel like we’re headed in the right direction.”
Some minor injuries have held a few players out of the workouts, including Heyward-Bey and Toler.
“[Darrius] tweaked a hammy [Tuesday]. Nothing serious. But at this time of the year, we’re obviously going to err on the side of caution. It was our decision to hold him out [of Wednesday’s workout]. He probably could have went. But we said wait and let’s see how you feel [Thursdsay],” the Colts coach explained.
“[Toler] was the same thing. He’s got a sore foot. He went [in Tuesday’s practice], went full practice. But it’s the same type thing as DHB. We’re going to err on the side of caution. Especially at this time of the year and not push it. At this time of the year, they really want to [practice]. We’ve got to protect those guys from themselves because they want to be a part of everything. To put them out there and force the issue with them and then have something serious happen this time of year wouldn’t be very smart on my part.”
Overall, for the first two weeks of OTA workouts, Pagano likes what he’s seen thus far.
“There’s only so much you can do from a physical standpoint to tell how good of shape they are. But really what we’re throwing at them mentally, seeing how much is sticking. We’re throwing a lot of mud against the wall. And we’re seeing how much is sticking,” he said.
“From that standpoint, you can kind of tell a lot of where we’re heading to. Guys are flying around. Guys are communicating. So that’s the probably the biggest thing we can measure right now. The communication part of it, execution, technique.”
Again, the influx of so many new players to the team is taking an effect.
“We’ve got a lot of new faces. It’s crazy. I didn’t even realize [the overall number of new players] until I read the stat myself. From that standpoint, in terms of coming in and jelling in the locker room, learning the systems on both sides of the ball,” Pagano said.
“Between the [veteran] free agents, the draft choices, the college free agents, those type of guys, everybody we brought in here, they’ve done a great job of picking up the information. The coaches have been doing an outstanding job of presenting the information to them. So a bunch [of information] is sticking.”
* Colts add assistant coach — Indianapolis hired Shawn Terlecky as the team’s new assistant to the head coach.
Terlecky has spent the last three seasons as a defensive quality control coach working with linebackers at Louisiana State. He was a former graduate assistant under Chuck Pagano at North Carolina.
* Roster moves — The Colts recently added LB Caesar Rayford to the offseason roster and waived LB Jake Killeen.
Rayford (6-7, 265) spent the last three seasons with the Utah Blaze of the Arena Football League. He played collegiately at the University of Washington. Rayford also played professionally with the AFL’s Spokane Shock and the CFL’s British Columbia Lions.
n No word on McNary — Indianapolis officials still don’t know when OLB Josh McNary will be made available to begin practicing with the team.
McNary played at Army and is still serving in the military. He was expected to finish his final tour sometime this month. As of now though, the Colts must wait until McNary has been given the green light by Army officials before he can join the team.
* The name game — Some of the best new names on the Colts offseason roster include linebacker C.O. Prime, cornerback Daxton Swanson, center Rick Schmeig, and running back Denodus O’Bryant. All four are undrafted rookies.
Of those, Swanson may be someone to keep an eye on as the team heads into training camp. A former FCS All-America selection at Sam Houston State, the 5-11, 185-pound defensive back can play both cornerback and safety.