WESTFIELD – Matt Ryan wasn’t thrilled about running suicides following Tuesday’s first practice in full pads.
The new Indianapolis Colts quarterback was even less enthused after he slipped and fell hard to the grass during the series of wind sprints at Grand Park.
“We gotta win those periods at the end as an offense, but it’s good stuff,” Ryan said with a good-natured grin. “It’s good for us.”
As is typically the case early in training camp, the defense got the better of the offense on a day dominated by red-zone work.
There were highlights on both sides, including back-to-back touchdown passes from Ryan to rookie wide receiver Alec Pierce, but the grand prize came during the final segment of the 100-minute session.
Ryan threw incomplete under heavy pressure, and rookie quarterback Jack Coan also couldn’t convert on the final play as the defense won two out of three 2-point conversion reps to force the offense to run.
“I thought the defense had a good day,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said. “That usually is the case the first day in pads, I would say, over the years. But I thought the defense did good. We had a lot of red zone today. That’s the other thing that typically happens when you get in training camp – we’re just installing plays on offense.
“Typically, in red zone, you’re very specific about how you game plan teams, and we’re not really game planning our defense. So they had some things covered up. The defense executed well down in the red zone today.”
It was a special day for Ryan, who was in full pads for the first time with his new teammates.
He accounted himself well in full-team drills, going 7-of-11 with four touchdowns. And that has been the case throughout training camp so far. In four public practices, Ryan is 27-of-36 and has yet to throw an interception in 11-on-11 work.
But there are always areas that can improve.
He’s still working on timing with his new receiving corps, and the offense is working on consistency as a whole.
That’s not uncommon in early August, but the advent of padded practices ratchets things up a notch or two.
“It’s always different – the intensity level, how things move around you when there is actual contact,” Ryan said. “Football starts today, and the work we’ve done up until this point is really important. But it changes. It changes a bit when you’re in pads. You have to adjust to that, you have to get used to that and you have to let things slow down for everybody.
“Just take a deep breath, relax and go play. That’s why it’s good – it’s good we’re going to get this time on the field to work through it. I thought there was some good today, some sloppy today, but lots to improve on.”
Ryan continues to draw rave reviews from his coaches and teammates.
It’s common to see him standing on the sideline and speaking with other players and coaches. Sometimes he’s working on the details of a certain play call. Other times he’s looking for perspective on what he’s doing from the other side of the ball.
In a few short months, he’s built meaningful relationships in the locker room the team hopes will pay off when the action goes live.
“I think he is a great leader, first off,” wide receiver Ashton Dulin said. “Takes everybody and holds everybody accountable to the same standard, whether you are the first guy on the depth chart or the last guy. Every guy is held to the same standard. That brings everyone together as a room.
“It elevates everybody’s game. He will quiz you out of the blue in the hallway, like, ‘What do you got on this play?’ It’s fun. He is great to be around, a great leader, a great person and couldn’t be happier to have him.”
Those small details mean the world to Ryan.
He made six trips to the playoffs in 14 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons – including one infamous Super Bowl berth — but hasn’t tasted postseason play since 2017.
Indianapolis has two playoff appearances and just one postseason victory in four seasons under Reich. The goal is to get both player and coach to the next level.
And Ryan knows it starts with the small stuff.
“I think, obviously, we have these big long-term goals of where we want to go and how we want to play, starting fast and doing all of those things,” he said. “The way you get there is you hyperfocus on the details. We talk about being a team where everything matters. So how you go about that every day is hyperfocus on little things, whether it be splits or timing in the pass game or my footwork – making sure I’m keeping things in front of my left hip, which I always talk about to my left, or keep my right foot underneath my right hip.
“It’s watching that every day and trying to hammer that out every day and being as detailed as we can – trying to match that intensity with the playbook, too, of knowing it inside and out as well as you can and making sure we’re all on the same page. But I think you keep that focus small.”