News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 6, 2013

Colts seeking to beef up running game

Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

ANDERSON — Yes, first-year offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said it. The Indianapolis Colts want to be a power-running football team this coming season.

But, rest easy, Colts fans. Indianapolis is not about to change its offensive identity too much with a franchise quarterback like Andrew Luck at the helm.

This is what Hamilton and second-year head coach Chuck Pagano want to do: first of all, be a better and more consistent running team. Indianapolis has struggled mightily in recent years sustaining offensive drives and finishing in the red zone with its ground attack.

The Colts have depended way too much, at times, on the strong right arms of former quarterback Peyton Manning and now Luck. Indianapolis has settled for field goals too often while in the shadows of the opponent’s goal posts.

Additionally, there have been times when the team has been unable to pick up first downs in short-yardage running situations, with opposing defenses forcing Indianapolis to turn the ball over on downs.

To put it simply, Pagano and Hamilton want to have the capability to run the football and be successful more often than not. To be able to put the fate of a game in the running back’s hands and not be forced to depend on the quarterback’s ability to scramble around and make plays. That hasn’t been the case for several seasons.

“It’s about being physical. It’s all about imposing our will on our opponent. We do not want to waste plays in the run game. But there are times when, hey, they’re going to have a better call than we have and we got to do a great job of making sure we eliminate the negative plays,” Hamilton explained Monday.

“But, our offensive linemen, they’ve done an outstanding job of accepting the challenge of being physical and having a physical mind-set and buying in to the fact that it’s going to hurt when we run the football. But we expect it to hurt our opponents more than it hurts us, especially in the third quarter, when we continue to run the football.”

Balance is the key. With weapons like receivers Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Griff Whalen and LaVon Brazill — along with tight ends Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener and Justice Cunningham — Luck will be throwing the football.

Hamilton, though, doesn’t want to get away from running the football on a regular basis. Just the opposite, in fact.

“I went back over this summer break and studied several different teams across the league, just their offenses. But you start with the two teams that played in [last season’s] Super Bowl. Both Baltimore and the San Francisco 49ers are both physical, power-running teams that do a great job stopping the run,” he explained.

“I know first-hand, [San Francisco] coach [Jim] Harbaugh’s philosophy of offense. He hired me at Stanford. I believe that we should be able to run the football and commit to running the football. But by no means are we going to not work on being an efficient passing team.

“We want to maintain balance more than anything. I think when we talk about running the football, we’re just trying to create a mentality and mind-set for our guys. For all of our guys.”

n Just win — When it comes to the Colts’ offense, there is one thing that Hamilton is pretty confident about. Luck doesn’t care how the team wins, either with his right arm or with the running game. The result is what’s important.

“We talked about Andrew being a selfless player and that’s one of the things of Coach Pagano’s program. We’re going to do whatever it takes to win ballgames. If that means we’ll go out and throw the ball more than we pass the ball, or vice versa, then so be it,” Hamilton said.

“I think Andrew, he’s bought in to the fact that a good running game can really open up our passing game. That was truly the formula that we used when he was in college. We just want to score points however we can.”

The quarterback agrees.

“It’s great to hand the ball off. The balance of the offense has been a lot of fun to play with, to play in I guess I should say. The guys up front are doing a great job and everybody is really buying into this sort of smash-mouth approach,” Luck said.

“I think that’s only going to help us in the passing game, so it’s been great.”

n Injury list — Cornerback Greg Toler, who had been sidelined since Wednesday with a concussion, returned to practice Monday afternoon.

Prior to the injury, Toler had been having an outstanding camp. He was hurt while diving to bat away a pass. His head glanced off the artificial surface of Anderson University’s primary playing field.

Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (knee), rookie fullback Dan Moore (shoulder), inside linebacker Mario Harvey (hamstring), safety Sergio Brown (hamstring), offensive guard Joe Reitz (stinger), rookie outside linebacker Daniel Adongo (bicep), rookie offensive guard Hugh Thornton (ankle) and rookie center Khaled Holmes (ankle) all remain sidelined.

n Heyward-Bey injury serious? — According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, Heyward-Bey’s injury was a sprained left MCL and he was expected to out for an extended period of time. Bleacher Report sports injury writer Will Carroll, who is based in Indianapolis, was a little more specific.

“Hearing DHB knee injury is a Grade one plus MCL sprain. Not surgical, timeline depends on his response to treatment, strength of 2D stabilizers,” Carroll tweeted.

Team officials, however, dispute the notion that Heyward-Bey will miss significant time. The receiver watched Monday’s two practices from the sidelines without the aid of crutches.

Inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman (shoulder) and safety Larry Asante (AC joint shoulder sprain) also sat out Monday afternoon’s practice.

n Roster move — The Colts waived linebacker Monte Simmons on Monday. Simmons was originally signed to the practice squad on Oct. 23, 2012.

There’s no word on who the team will add to the roster to replace Simmons, but it’s expected to be either a linebacker, wide receiver or a safety.

n NFL referees visit camp — Six National Football League game officials were on hand for Monday’s morning and afternoon practices. In addition to working both practices, the referees also conducted their annual meeting with the team’s media to discuss and review rule changes heading into the 2013 season.