Offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo suggested Wednesday’s minicamp workout at Lucas Oil Stadium was the fastest the Indianapolis Colts have had in the offseason.
That’s because it was in front of fans excited to see them. Practices aren’t usually open to the public except for training camp, so fans provided the added element of cheering for this session.
“You can definitely tell that everything was kind of amped up,” Castonzo said, “and it’s always fun to play in front of the fans, that’s why we play.”
One of the loudest cheers was also rather amusing — it was after quarterback Andrew Luck slid to end a play. Everyone is well aware of the three-time Pro Bowl passer’s competitive desire to extend plays and how it ended his 2015 season, when he suffered a lacerated kidney and partially torn abdominal muscle.
“I think we’ve all been in his ear like, ‘Dude, when you get out of the pocket, you need to slide,’” Castonzo said, “because we obviously love him and want him to be playing. The more he can slide when he gets out there, it was nice, that’s what we need.”
Luck, who missed nine games, obviously doesn’t care to slide but is learning of its necessity. Without him for too many games last season, the Colts were 8-8 last season and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Sliding, sometimes, is smart.
“He’s reluctantly accepting it because he obviously wants to dive ahead and get three more yards,” Castonzo said. “In the grand scheme of things, I think he kind of knows that sliding might be a little better of a decision.”
But teammates will keep reminding him, and doing so rather forcefully.
“Yeah, you do,” Castonzo said. “You’re like, ‘Dude slide, alright? Slide.’”
Safety Mike Adams said the public workout had the players’ adrenaline flowing.
“Actually it felt good, I was just telling coach that all the pain goes away,” Adams said. “You’re hurt all week and then you get inside this building and all of it just goes away. It felt good with the fans here and it was just a great experience.”
Fans were treated to a 20-minute autograph session before the practice, then a showing of “The LEGO Movie” afterward.
Colts owner Jim Irsay addressed the players at midfield after the practice.
“He was just saying that he’s glad for us to be here, glad to be back in the Shoe and our goal doesn’t change,” Adams said of annual Super Bowl aspirations. “Everybody in the league has the same goal right now and ours doesn’t change and we have to keep that mentality.”
What’s different this year is the Colts didn’t make headline splashes in free agency, which last offseason prompted many to predict they would end up in the Super Bowl. This time around, this team has been just the opposite. No big names were added in free agency. Nobody is talking about the Colts being Super Bowl contenders anymore.
That’s precisely what Adams prefers.
“I love it,” said the 13th-year pro, who entered the NFL undrafted but has made the Pro Bowl the last two seasons. “Just me personally, I’ve always played the underdog role. Right now, it looks like the Colts are the underdog; no one is talking about us and that’s a good thing. There’s no pressure. We aren’t worrying about what anyone else is saying, we just to have handle what we have to handle and our goal is to end up in Houston.”
Super Bowl LI will be Feb. 5, 2017, at Houston’s NRG Stadium.
The Colts had finished 11-5 in three consecutive seasons and reached the AFC Championship Game before faltering to 8-8 last year.
“Yeah, you always want to make the playoffs,” Castonzo said. “Our goal is the same going into every year, it’s just always win that first game and go from there but the motivation is always there regardless. Obviously, last year didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to but the goals are the same.”
The Colts wrap up mini-camp Thursday at the team complex, then have 47 days off before reporting July 26 to Anderson University for training camp.
“The season is made in the offseason,” Castonzo said. “This month of July is probably the most important month of the year. Obviously, the season is the most important but this is kind of what sets up the season. You can’t get out of the play book, you can’t get out of doing football stuff. Training camp basically starts July 1st as far as I’m concerned.”
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