A year ago — with a new head coach, a rookie starting quarterback, a first-year general manager and coming off a dismal 2-14 record — the Indianapolis Colts’ training camp mantra was “Build the Monster.”
This year, coming on the heels of an 11-5 campaign and a 24-9 AFC wild-card round loss to eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore, the slogan has become “Unfinished Business.”
Head coach Chuck Pagano wasn’t shy last summer about reminding his players that the Colts were picked to finish with the National Football League’s worst record for the second season in a row. Now Pagano is telling the team to not get caught up in last year’s unexpected success.
“It was no different than last year. We used that as motivation, obviously, but I think everybody, if you read the papers [going into this season], everybody’s still saying the Colts are fool’s gold. I think I read that one. I shouldn’t read that stuff but in this league what we did last year was last year. This is ‘What have you done for me lately?’ The National Football League, we’re all judged by wins and losses, and so that was last year,” he warned.
“We can sit there and read the press clippings and pat ourselves on the back and certainly get complacent. We’re not going to get complacent. You get complacent in this league, you go right back to where you were. It’s kind of unfinished business for us.”
Despite last year’s success, Pagano said the ultimate goals haven’t changed.
“Ultimate goal is always a world championship. First and foremost, the easiest way to get into the dance is to win your division. Our first goal is No. 1, win the [AFC] South,” he said.
“We’ve got to try to take over the South. Houston’s had it the last two years. This team and this organization has dominated the South for years and years and years and now we got to get it back.”
n Remembering the loss to the Ravens — The night before the Colts’ first two practices, Pagano took the opportunity to look back at the playoff loss to the Ravens.
“We showed a [video] clip [Saturday] night, a highlight, and it ended with the scoreboard in the playoff game. There was 12 minutes and 30 seconds to go on the clock and it’s in the fourth quarter and it was a one-score game. And we had the ball first-and-5 on their 18-yard line. That’s a team that eventually won the Super Bowl,” he said.
In other developments:
n Grigson’s second year — Ryan Grigson has a somewhat philosophical stance as he prepares for his second season in charge of the team’s front office.
Just don’t ask him about being comfortable in his job.
“I don’t know if you ever get comfortable. If you ever say the world ‘comfortable’ then you’re probably not going to be around too long. So I don’t ever really allow myself to be comfortable,” Grigson voiced this week.
“That’s the mindset in the building. We’re always trying to get better. If we tell the players not to stop and smell the roses, then we better not be doing that ourselves.”
n Off-field issues — The suspensions of wide receiver LaVon Brazill and former tight end Weselye Saunders for violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policies, along with the arrest of safety Joe Lefeged on a gun charge, did not sit well with Grigson and Pagano.
“Disappointment. Pure disappointment. The owner [Jim Irsay] was disappointed, Chuck [Pagano] was disappointed. That’s all I can say,” the Grigson said. “We weren’t happy. We expect more out of our players and we won’t stop having high expectations for those people.”
Pagano agreed. “It’s well documented. I re-read all the things that I said coming out of the offseason. We talk about making great choices and we’ll continue to do that. We’ll continue to educate. We had some guys make some mistakes and made egregious errors in judgment,” he said.
“Certainly we’re disappointed, they’re disappointed. We hold each other to the highest expectations. It’s about personal accountability. We’ll deal with those internally. We’ll deal with them on an individual basis.”
n Brazill talks — The Colts’ second-year wide receiver offered apologies to his coaches and his teammates Monday for his league-mandated four-game suspension to begin the 2013 season. He reportedly tested positive for marijuana.
He is being allowed to practice with the team and will be able to play during the preseason.
“[My teammates were] with me. It was my mistake, I shouldn’t have [done] that but they were still with me. They said I’m a talented player and they’re going to stay with me. Just going to put this in the past and move forward,” Brazill said after Monday’s morning practice, adding that he understands the consequences if there are any further issues.
“This is it. No more, no more from me. No more out of me. Like I said, I got to keep working hard every day and just put this in my past and go work on my future.”
He will undergo a regular schedule of testing by team and league officials for the rest of the season.
“Just get tested every week, see a counselor every other week and just staying clean,” Brazill said.
n Injury list — Rookie offensive guard Hugh Thornton suffered a ankle injury during the final rookie camp practice on Friday and will be sidelined indefinitely.
“Last day of the rookie minicamp, down at West 56th, a guy fell down, fell on the back of his leg so he got a slight ankle sprain and so we got him in a boot,” Pagano explained. “So he’s going to miss a little bit of time. But it’s not that severe. We expect to get him back sooner than later.”
Nose tackle Brandon McKinney, meanwhile, is out due to swelling in his surgically repaired knee. McKinney missed all of the 2012 season after he was hurt in last year’s training camp.
“Had swelling in his knee. Something that hasn’t happened because he was doing great and had a little bit of swelling so we just held him out,” the Colts coach added.
Nose tackle Martin Tevasue had his right shoulder wrapped during the afternoon session. Defensive tackle Kellen Heard left the field midway through the second practice and did not return. The injury was not considered to be serious. Rookie tight end Justice Cunningham and rookie nose tackle Montori Hughes both experienced issues with cramping. Inside linebacker Pat Angerer watched practice from the sideline. His right knee was wrapped. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw watched practice from the sidelines.
n Opening practice review — Pagano liked what he saw from Monday’s two practice sessions.
“We had a very productive day on all three phases: offense, defense and special teams. Obviously, we caught a break in the weather so guys were moving around. It looked like the retention from the offseason from a mental standpoint was excellent. We had very few mental errors,” he said. “There’s always on the first day some things to clean up in all three phases. Defensively, we forced some turnovers. [Cornerback] Cassius Vaughn had a couple pick-sixes, one in one-on-one period and then one in the team period.”
One of the offseason points of emphasis was to reduce the number of times that the Colts’ offense coughed up the football.
“We know we’re stressing, we have to stress the turnovers this year. Having 15 last year, we’re making an emphasis on that. You never stay the same,” Pagano explained. “You’re either getting better or you’re getting worse. Our objective is to come out and get better every day.”
n Sycamore gets NFL tryout — Former Indiana State wide receiver Justin Hilton — who has had stints with the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals as well time with CFL and Arena League teams — is scheduled to undergo a workout with the Tennessee Titans today.
Hilton was on the Bengals’ practice squad last season and has seen playing time this spring and summer with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Arena League’s Tampa Bay Storm.