INDIANAPOLIS – It’s doubtful each side achieved its primary objective, but that’s the nature of compromise.
Recent give-and-take between management and players resulted in an altered, condensed offseason program for the Indianapolis Colts. That includes the cancellation of the three-day mandatory minicamp in June.
Now, a team dealing with an influx of new coaches and players at integral positions – most notably quarterback Carson Wentz and first-round draft pick Kwity Paye – has two weeks to get its act together and take its first step toward an upcoming season teeming with high expectations.
After two weeks of light work that began Monday, the Colts scatter to their offseason homes and won’t return until the start of training camp in late July or early August, presumably at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield.
“It’s just the best of both worlds,’’ Ryan Kelly, the team’s Pro Bowl center and player rep to the NFLPA, said Monday on a Zoom conference call.
Countered coach Frank Reich: “I’m confident we’ll get a lot of work done in this two weeks. We just work through it.’’
In response to the NFL shifting to a 17-game schedule in 2021, players on a majority of teams already had announced through the NFLPA they would not participate in the voluntary phase of offseason programs. Those players wouldn’t have an issue with teammates participating in offseason work to ensure earning workout bonuses, but they would only show up for the mandatory minicamp in mid-June.
The Colts never issued a blanket statement addressing the offseason. That wasn’t necessary after discussions involving Kelly, the team’s leadership council, Reich and general manager Chris Ballard.
According to Kelly, Reich was the catalyst.
“Frank had come to me on behalf of him and Chris and said, ‘Look, we’re not pressuring you guys to come in.’ The NFL had not made the protocols favorable to come in.
“It was really Frank’s idea. I’d like to take credit for it, but it wasn’t mine. It was more, ‘Let’s move everything up so that we’re not waiting for the middle of June to come back.’’’
Reich has developed a strong relationship with the locker room, and this is the latest example of it proving valuable. He always has been receptive to dialogue with the players.
“I appreciated the way Ryan and the rest of our players handled it,’’ Reich said. “I think we started from a point of trust where it was nobody trying to manipulate the conversation or the way it was going to go. Let’s just talk about what we can get done, how do we do it, what’s the best way to do it, and we eventually came to the solution we did.’’
From a team standpoint, it’s not ideal. Again, coaches prefer as much time with players as possible.
Monday, the normal welcome-back team meeting was held as drills were transitioning from defense to offense.
“It was basically a 3-minute team meeting because we wanted to maximize the work on the field with the players,’’ Reich said. “One of the things I said to the players was no matter how good of a football player you are . . . we need to be coached up.
“I thought it was really important rather than just get a week in June, or three days in June for the mandatory camp, what could we do? How could we work together to get more than that? Now we’ve got two weeks. We worked with the players and got this two-week solution that I feel good about.’’
Without the compromise, it’s entirely possible the players wouldn’t have reported to the Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance Football Center until the mandatory minicamp. With the agreement, the coaching staff still doesn’t get as much hands-on time with players as it would like – is there ever enough time? – but has two consecutive weeks of meetings, walk-throughs and light on-field work.
Although next week is the first week of the traditional OTA (Organized Team Activities) work, the Colts won’t engage in the normal offense vs. defense drills.
“We work out a couple of times a week, and go out there on the field for an hour-and-a-half,’’ Kelly said. “We do individual (drills) . . . routes on air . . . walk-throughs.
“This is the best. It’s the best offer that I saw out of anybody in the NFL. It just shows the Colts are being proactive as far as the 17th game and what they show for guys down the road for health and safety.
“This could be the change of going forward what OTAs look like.’’
And that will require dedication from the players. Although the coaching staff will have a workout blueprint for each player, individuals will be on their own for eight weeks.
There will be occasions when Wentz and his new teammates – Pro Bowl wideout T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr., Zach Pascal, Parris Campbell and others – get together for throwing sessions. Hilton and Wentz already have gotten together once.
Wentz was ill Monday and did not participate in the workouts.
“I definitely think this is a great compromise between us players and the front office and the coaching staff,’’ said All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. “Being able to get these light two weeks in, getting done before June starts, being able to have those eight weeks to ourselves and be able to prepare and get our bodies right before the long season is the perfect adjustment.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.