The Indianapolis Colts welcomed 37 players to the start of the team’s rookie mini camp Friday at the West 56th Street headquarters.
Of the 37 players participating, seven were draft picks and 16 were undrafted free agents. Thirteen players took part as invited tryout prospects, including Indiana State defensive tackle/defensive end Jordan Bright, Marian placekicker Mike Josifovski and safety Nick Driskill (grew up in Wabash, Ind., and played at Mount Union College in Ohio).
Garnering most of the attention, however, was first-round draft pick Bjoern Werner, the defensive end/outside linebacker from Florida State. The 6-foot-3, 266-pounder is expected to make a strong push for a starting role as the long-term replacement for Pro Bowl outside linebacker Dwight Freeney.
“We threw a lot at these guys from a mental standpoint, physical standpoint. Started early [Friday] morning with meetings. We gave them a bunch of information. They did a pretty good job of digesting that.
Took what we gave them in the meeting room and came out [to the practice field] early [Friday] morning and had a great walk-through and then a pretty productive practice,” second-year head coach Chuck Pagano said after the one hour and 40-minute session had wrapped up.
Pagano admitted that the practice was a little rough around the edges, but that was to be expected for a first workout with players trying to learn a new offense and defense.
“Obviously, the kind of things that you expect in a rookie mini-camp to happen took place,” he said. “There were some dropped balls, [mishandled] center-quarterback exchanges, a few mental errors here and there.
“But really what we’re looking for is the effort, which was fabulous. They came in probably better shape than any of us anticipated. With what we put them through, they’re in pretty good shape. So we’re pleased overall with the first day.”
Werner, for his part, appeared to come through his first practice pretty well. The Colts’ lone remaining unsigned draft pick worked as a stand-up outside linebacker for most of the day. The Berlin native also had his hands on the ground occasionally as well.
“You know what? [He] was kind of what we thought and probably even better,” Pagano said. “He’s in great shape. He works out all the time. He’s really an athletic football player. He can bend. He’s got first-step explosion. You see him running around here doing some things that were all the things that we saw on tape. Up close and personal now, it’s even more impressive.
“He’s really a bright guy. We threw a ton of information and material at those guys on both sides of the ball. And he came out here and there wasn’t that deer-in-the-headlights [look], so to speak. He understands and he gets football. For playing for a short period of time that he has, he really understands.”
n Bright adjusting — The former Sycamore defender was one of three linemen working with Colts defensive line coach Gary Emanuel during Friday’s practice.
The 6-7, 295-pounder admits that he is still trying to adjust to the pace of the practice routine.
“It’s a lot faster than I’d thought and expected it would be,” Bright said afterwards. “But I can keep up with it. Just have to get used to it.”
As the rookies were coming off the field at the conclusion of practice, Emanuel pulled Bright off to the side for a few words.
“He was just telling about some things that I need to work on,” he said. “Work on coming off the ball faster. Things like that.”
Since learning that Bright had gotten a chance to try out with the Colts, texts and tweets from several of his former Indiana State coaches have been somewhat frequent.
He has heard from ex-defensive line coach Shannon Jackson, former defensive coordinator Jesse Minter and ex-linebackers coach P.J. Volker. All three are now coaching at Georgia State under former Sycamores coach Trent Miles.
Bright is one of three Indiana State players participating in NFL rookie tryout camps, along with defensive end Ben Obaseki (Green Bay) and safety Alex Sewell (Cincinnati). Sewell graduated after the 2011 season but was forced to put his pro hopes on hold for a year after suffering a knee injury preparing for regional combine workouts.