The Indianapolis Colts began their full-squad mandatory mini-camp around 11 a.m. Tuesday. Just four minutes later, with rookie quarterback Andrew Luck completing a short lob pass downfield to veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne, the torch was officially passed from former starter Peyton Manning to begin a new era for the franchise.
Per NFL rules, Luck wasn’t allowed to attend Indianapolis’ three-week organized team activity practices — which wrapped up last Thursday — since spring-quarter classes hadn’t ended at Stanford University.
He was one of three Colts forced to miss the entire OTA workout schedule, along with rookie wide receivers Griff Whalen (also from Stanford) and LaVon Brazill (Ohio University). A fourth rookie, tight end Coby Fleener, participated in the first two weeks of OTAs but missed the final sessions because of graduate-student finals at Stanford.
Whalen, Fleener and Luck will return to Palo Alto, Calif., this weekend for Stanford’s graduation exercises. The ceremonies will take place Sunday.
Luck’s pass to Wayne was symbolic of all the changes that have occurred with the Colts since the end of the 2011 season. No more Manning, Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, Pierre Garcon, Jacob Tamme, Anthony Gonzalez, Jeff Saturday or Ryan Diem on offense. Almost two-thirds of the roster that started the 2011 season are no longer with the team.
The Tuesday morning practice consisted of an hour-long walkthrough session in jerseys and shorts. A more involved workout, lasting about two hours with players wearing helmets, took place in the afternoon.
In total, the Colts are scheduled to have four practices during the three-day mini-camp (two Tuesday, one today at Lucas Oil Stadium at 2 p.m. and a final workout Thursday morning back at the team’s West 56th Street headquarters). This afternoon’s practice is open to the public.
• Luck looks for the veteran — The first-year quarterback had thrown passes to a couple other players prior to his throw to Wayne on Tuesday morning, Yet it was the toss to the five-time Pro Bowl performer that caught everybody’s attention.
When Manning first arrived in Indianapolis as the team’s first pick in 1998, he quickly developed a bond with receiver Marvin Harrison that served both men well during the course of their careers with the Colts.
Team officials are hoping, and are quietly confident, that Luck and Wayne will be able to duplicate the Manning/Harrison model.
“To get any snippet of advice, how a quarterback in the past did it or how they’ve seen other guys do it, that will be a big part of the learning curve,” Luck said after Tuesday’s first practice. “Why not take advantage of resources around you when you have a Pro Bowl wide receiver three lockers down.”
Wayne is enjoying the attention that comes with having the No. 1 pick of the draft as his quarterback. As the team returned to the practice field for the afternoon workout Tuesday, he walked out with Colts cornerback Jerraud Powers.
“Everybody’s here to see my new quarterback!” Wayne yelled to a large group of media that was on hand to document Luck’s Tuesday practices.
Even recently acquired defensive end Cory Redding got into the act. Redding, who played for Baltimore last season, hollered to Luck as the team took the field for the afternoon practice.
“Hey [No.] 12! The photographers are down this way,” he joked.
Luck, Fleener and rookie tight end Dewayne Allen are the only three draft picks who have yet to sign their contracts.
• New kids in town — Luck and the rest of the Colts’ 2012 rookie class went through a one-day mini-camp of their own Monday. The workout was designed to help the first-year players better acclimate themselves to Indianapolis’ offensive and defensive schemes before taking the field with the veterans.
Indianapolis’ returning players, though, are pretty much in the same boat as the rookies due to a new coaching staff. There’s a new offense and defense for them to learn as well as a new way of doing things.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano liked what he saw of Luck on Tuesday.
“Like we’ve said all along, the guy is off the charts in terms of football IQ,” Pagano said. “Just coming back out here Monday, we had a little session with the rookie guys, which is legal in the guidelines of the new CBA. He [Luck] hasn’t missed a beat.”
Veteran wide receiver Austin Collie was impressed as well.
“As far as an attitude standpoint, which is probably the only thing I can make a judgment on, the kid Andrew’s got it,” Collie said. “He’s a hard worker. You can tell he’s on his stuff, just by being out there and the way he’s pointing out the hots [pass plays at the line of scrimmage]. That’s always reassuring.”
Luck completed 15 of 16 passes in the Colts’ 11-on-11 walkthrough drill during the morning practice. His only incomplete pass came when Allen couldn’t come up with a throw deep across the middle.
Safety Tom Zbikowski almost came up with Luck’s first mini-camp interception during the afternoon session but dropped the ball after hitting the ground. Cornerback Kevin Thomas also bobbled a potential interception.
In that afternoon practice, Luck completed a combined 25 of 42 passes in 11-on-11 and seven-on-seven drills.
• Injury update — Sitting out Tuesday’s workouts were defensive tackle Drake Nevis, safety David Caldwell, rookie wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo, offensive guard Ben Ijalana, rookie defensive tackle Josh Chapman and rookie cornerback Buddy Jackson.
Recovering from a sprain, Nevis was wearing a walking boot on his right foot. Castonzo had a brace on his left ankle after undergoing surgery on the foot after the season. Ijalana, meanwhile, continues to rehab a knee that was surgically repaired last fall after he was hurt early in the season.
Chapman suffered an ACL injury to his knee midway through his senior year at Alabama last fall. He underwent surgery in January.
Running back Delone Carter, who had thumb surgery after the season, saw limited work Tuesday morning but did not take part in the afternoon practice. Carter did not participate in the team’s OTA workouts.