ANDERSON, Ind. — One day into Indianapolis Colts training camp workouts, the competitive juices are flowing.
So, too, is the trash talk between offense and defense. Inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson barks at offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. And Pep isn’t going to take that without responding in kind.
“Now and again,” Jackson said of exchanging verbal pleasantries. “We trash talk more the coaches over there. Pep Hamilton, he’s a big talker.”
In some drills, the losing side has to run sprints. Or do push-ups. Yeah, one time in Sunday’s first full workout, the offense had to drop and count off push-ups on the middle of that Anderson University practice field.
“We just try to keep up with them,” Jackson said of the Colts’ high-powered offense. “It’s a lot of competition, I’ll tell you that. It’s very competitive, to say the least. I haven’t been around a group that’s been this competitive in my entire career.”
The defensive leader is entering his 10th NFL season, second with the Colts. Each practice, he stares across the line at quarterback Andrew Luck and a loaded arsenal of weapons.
The crowd doesn’t hesitate to erupt every time an offensive player makes a play, when wide receiver T.Y. Hilton sprints into the end zone after a deep catch or running back Frank Gore reaches back across his body for a nifty grab.
Then the defense has a chance to holler. Safety Mike Adams intercepted a pass at one end of the field and, with cornerback Vontae Davis joining him, they ran to the other end to complete the score. Nobody else gave chase.
Near the goal line, Adams flipped the ball back to Davis for some show-boating.
Head coach Chuck Pagano, known as a rather gritty guy, smiled when asked if he liked the offense and defense yapping at each other.
“Absolutely,” he said, “it brings out the best in everybody.”
He’s convinced this type of preseason atmosphere will benefit the team in the long run.
“Man sharpens man and iron sharpens iron,” he said. “It’s all about competition. These guys, they love to compete because that is how Sunday’s are going to be. If we don’t put the applied pressure from an offensive standpoint on our defense and vice versa, we are not going to prepare ourselves for preseason games and our opener against Buffalo.
“We’ve got to compete at a high level. It’s about making the other guy better and not crossing the line and going over the top. It’s all about making the other guy better and if the competition out here is fierce and the guys are competing at a very high level, and we are putting the pressure on each other and we’re stressing people and making them uncomfortable. There has got to be anxiety, there has got to be commotion, there has got to be stuff that goes on in order to grow, in order to change. Because if it’s not tough, come Sunday we all know it is going to be. We love to make practice a hell of a lot tougher than the game. That is what we are here to do is compete.”
Before Pagano was hired by the Colts in 2012, he was the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive coordinator. But that doesn’t mean he takes sides in these spirited sessions.
“I try to level the playing field as much as I can, otherwise I am going to catch it from the guys,” the coach said. “We are a team. We are improving. I am rooting for all these guys and we’re trying to develop all these guys, whether a guy makes a play on defense or a guy makes a play on offense. I will gravitate to meetings and practice and things like that toward one side of the field probably more than others just because of my nature, (but) I can’t fight that battle.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.