In little more than one full season with the Indianapolis Colts, defensive end Cory Redding has quickly earned the respect of the team's coaching staff and, more importantly, just about every player on the defensive side of the football.
When Redding came to the Colts as a veteran free agent after successful stints with the Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks and, more recently, the Baltimore Ravens, it didn't take him very long to become one of more influential voices in the Indianapolis locker room.
Yes, the Colts already had an impressive list of veteran leaders on defense when he arrived. Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, Antoine Bethea and Jerraud Powers topped the list.
But Redding — standing in at 6-foot-4 and 315-pounds — proved to be a difference maker. And that was even before he actually stepped foot on the practice field for Indianapolis.
A third-round draft pick by Detroit in 2003, the Houston, Texas native decided to join the Colts due to his close relationship with Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano, which started when both were with the Ravens. It's been a great collaboration so far.
Redding registered 36 tackles last season along with a pair of sacks and four passes broken up. He was an emotional leader in the locker room and sidelines while Pagano was recovering from leukemia.
He also proved to be an invaluable on-field presence prior to last year as helped Pagano and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky in explaining the nuances of the Colts' new 3-4 hybrid defensive package to the rest of the team.
Now, with Freeney and Powers moving on to other teams during the offseason, the Colts' defensive locker room leaders are Mathis, Bethea and Redding.
One thing is certain, though. As important as the former Texas All-American has become to Indianapolis' fortunes, and it's considerable, he knows enough to give Mathis his due.
"I admired how relentless he was always on the field. Tough, relentless player always pursuing the quarterback. Chasing down guys from behind, making sacks, doing all kinds of things, making plays all over the field. I knew he was a tough worker hearing about him around the league," Redding said Tuesday.
"To play on the same team with him, I admired him even more. Just to see his work ethic, the things he goes through, his grind and his story. Where he comes from, how he got in the league, what round and all that kind of stuff and how he had to grind from here to here. It’s just truly remarkable to be around a guy like him.”
Likes the defense -- When Redding first arrived in Indianapolis, the Colts had players from the team's former 4-3 defensive system who were trying to learn Pagano's 3-4 alignment.
Now, a year later, the roster has been re-stocked with players who have more a familiarity with the 3-4, who fit it much better.
He likes the additions. He loves the system.
“What I like best is you’re not handicapping guys. You’re not handcuffing them and telling them you have to do this and you have to do that. In this defense it’s interchangeable positions. I can play an end or a nose or a three technique. I can stand up if I want to. I can put my hands down. I have the freedom, and all the guys on the defense have the freedom to do whatever they have to do to get the job done," Redding acknowledged.
"That’s what I like about it. You just fly around. You never know who is coming and who is not. You can’t really key on too many guys because everybody is interchangeable. You have to learn multiple positions to be very successful in this defense. If you don’t, then offenses can key on this guy, ‘He’s always on the left, he’s always doing this, now when we see that we’re going to attack him.’ But If he lines up on the right, or lines up in the middle or lines up off the line, you can’t really tell what they’re going to do.”
Newcomers like defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois, strong safety LaRon Landry and cornerback Greg Toler are giving the Colts a different look from a year ago.
“In my mind, it’s night and day. Last year, we did some good things. But we needed a lot of work against the run, a lot of work against the pass, a lot of work at different things and scheme-wise. It’s night and day, man. We have the body size, the type of men that are built for this system and have played in this type of system around other teams. So all they have to do is learn the terminology," he voiced.
"Once they get the terminology, they can just, ‘Hey this reminds of this play when I was over here,’ so bam, they got it and now they’re off and running. It’s night and day, man. We’re so much better now at this point than we were last year at training camp.”
Defensive philosophy -- Redding says that the Colts have adopted a 'no retreat' attitude heading into the 2013 season.
“That’s the mindset. You don’t want to give the offense a blade of grass. That’s the mentality of a defender. You don’t want them to cross your goal line. At the end of the day, you want to get better. But you do not want to lose. You want to win," he explained.
"You want to keep stacking wins because it transforms from the practice field to the game field. At the end of the day, as the mindset of a defender, I don’t want to give up this blade of grass. That’s what it’s got to be.”
Heyward-Bey update -- Pagano said Tuesday that injured wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey remains day-to-day after suffering a sprained left knee in Sunday's practice.
"He had an MRI. He had all the tests and they came back negative which is great for us. He's day-to-day and everybody else is trending in the right direction that’s missing time," he said.
Heyward-Bey is reported to have sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
Preseason goals -- The Colts coach doesn't expect many of the team's veterans -- both young and old -- to see much on-field work during the team's preseason home opener Sunday.
Indianapolis will play the Buffalo Bills with a 1:30 p.m. kickoff at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Pagano, though, has definite ideas of what he wants to see happen in the game.
“You’re always leery about taking care of the football early on. You want to limit mental mistakes and take care of the football. You would love to get some turnovers. But the biggest thing is, like we said, we haven’t scrimmaged. We’ve had one live period, so to speak, short-yardage and goal-line situations. So from a defensive stand point and special teams, tackling is always one of those things [you want to do well]," he said.
"You’d like to come out to this first ball game and say, you know what, we’ve been doing the right things to this point. Just make sure that we are doing the right things from a practice standpoint and they’re carrying over to the game. Our whole concept and our idea behind that is to get the guys to Sunday and not get anybody injured. We’re going to look at the mental part of it and then from an evaluation standpoint."
Backups and rookies are expected to get the bulk of the playing time against the Bills
"We know the guys that are back, the guys that were starters here last year. It’s a great way to evaluate your young guys, your rookies, your undrafted free agents, all those guys. It’s their first opportunity to play at Lucas Oil Stadium, play under the lights, play on the big stage, so to speak, and see how they’re going to handle that pressure," Pagano said.
Heyward-Bey dresses, practices — The injured Colts receiver dressed for Tuesday night's fully-padded practice.
Heyward-Bey went through team passing drills but was held out the rest of the evening as a precaution.
Pagano said afterward that the plan going into the practice was for the receiver to see "pass routes versus air."
The former Oakland Raiders receiver is scheduled to undergo treatment on his knee during the team's off-day today. He could get more on-field time when practices resume on Thursday.
Landry sits — Safety LaRon Landry, meanwhile, sat out the entire evening session after tweaking his knee during Monday afternoon's practice.
The injury is not considered to be serious and he should be ready to go for Thursday's practices.
Big crowd -- The biggest crowd of training camp turned out for Tuesday night's practice. An announced attendance of 7,350 were on hand for the workout, which began at 6:30 p.m. and wrapped up around 8:45 p.m.
A scheduled fireworks show, planned for after the practice, was canceled.