Players urged to connect in down time

Head coach Chuck Pagano encourages everyone to enjoy time away from football with family and in community activities.

Before enjoying the six-week break between mini-camp and training camp, Indianapolis Colts tight end Coby Fleener will host a Monday camp for students to explore the world of computer programming.

On Tuesday, Colts rookies will work with young athletes in a football camp at the team complex.

Later that night, tight end Dwayne Allen will team up with Ashley Furniture HomeStore for “A Hope to Dream night at the complex, where 100 children will receive a bed set.

It’s the start of undoubtedly several community activities as players try to make constructive use of their down time.

When head coach Chuck Pagano addressed players Thursday, the final day of mini-camp, he emphasized the importance of getting value out of their time away.

“What I hit them with was No. 1 they’ve got to connect, and that means connect with family,” Pagano said. “There’s nothing more important. Be where your feet are. Get with your kids. Get with your loved ones. Get with your wife, girlfriend, whatever that is and connect.”

Not that the Colts should completely forget about football.

“You’ve got to stay working out,” the coach said. “You’ve got to run, you’ve got to lift, you’ve got to do all those things. You’ve got to continue to work at your skillset and your craft. Then the mental part. Stay in your iPad. Stay in your playbook. Study, study, study. Pick a time out during the day. Get in a routine.”

The final message is reiterated several times throughout the year: Be smart about decisions.

“The last thing, which is not much more important than family and connecting, is doing the right thing and making great choices,” Pagano said. “We can’t afford to lose one person because of a bad decision, so really hit home on that.”

Pagano was asked specifically about warning rookies to avoid temptations.

“Do the right thing. Be a pro,” he said. “We just had the NFL security meeting yesterday, and they pointed out all the mistakes that have been made by former players. Not here but throughout the league. Showed them the statistics and all that stuff. When you’ve got free time, that’s usually the time that things happen, so we hit that hard.”

By league rule, the Colts can stay in touch with players but can’t discuss football.

“I can text them and call them and talk to them about how you doing, how’s your family, how’s everything going, this, that and the other,” Pagano said. “But I can’t talk any football. The whole staff including myself will stay in close, close contact with our guys. They’ll stay in close contact with each other as well.”

So enjoy the time off and be smart.

For Fleener, that begins with “Coby’s Coding Camp,” a community endeavor in which the tight end is teaming up with Launch Fishers, Eleven Fifty Academy and Six Feet Up to introduce more than 60 students from Shepherd Community Center and Edna Martin Community Center to computer programming.

Launch Fishers member and Eleven Fifty Academy Python instructor Calvin Hendryx-Parker (Co-Founder and CTO of Six Feet Up) will lead two boot camps on coding basics using the Raspberry Pi platform (a credit card size computer).

The classes begin with a simple task of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with Fleener’s assistance. The demonstration will show how computers interpret code in a very literal sense and will serve as a practical introduction to a series of Python coding games.

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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