As the Indianapolis Colts’ veterans players packed up to go separate ways after the conclusion of mini-camp Thursday, head coach Chuck Pagano deemed the progress made in the offseason program as “excellent.”
Except for the rookies, who will spend two more weeks in town, the players have 47 days off until reporting for training camp at Anderson University on July 26.
“I think we’ve had an excellent offseason program,” Pagano said. “Like I said (Wednesday), the attention to detail, the effort, participation – we all know this is voluntary, but the guys, you can tell these guys are hungry, they’re a humble group, they’re a tight group. They gave us everything they had for the last eight weeks so time away now this is a very, very important time as we all know.
“We’re counting on our veteran leadership and the guys holding themselves accountable and them holding each other accountable to what they need to accomplish over the next four or five weeks, whatever it is. Made a lot of headway and laid a great foundation, stacked a lot of bricks on top of each other and now is not the time to stop the process.”
The most noteworthy summations coming from the eight-week offseason program were:
* Quarterback Andrew Luck is healthy and Pagano sees a more confident passer who has picked up offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s new offense.
* Three-fifths of the offensive line appears set with Anthony Castonzo at left tackle, Jack Mewhort at left guard and rookie Ryan Kelly at center. Joe Reitz has been the right tackle and will be looking to lock up the starting job in camp. What’s unknown is who will play right guard, be it the injured Hugh Thornton (ankle), second-year pro Denzelle Good or perhaps rookies Joe Haeg or Le'Raven Clark.
* Thornton, wide receiver Donte Moncrief, defensive tackle Arthur Jones and cornerback D'Joun Smith are expected to be ready to return from injuries in time for camp. Jones is important as a top run stuffer. He’s been limited by ankle injuries to just three starts in two seasons. Moncrief, the No. 2 receiver, is recovering from toe surgery.
* Sio Moore and Nate Irving will compete for the starting inside linebacker position vacated by the free-agent departure of Jerrell Freeman. Both have taken extensive snaps with the first team while veteran D'Qwell Jackson has rested for many of the workouts. It’s difficult to project who has the edge between Moore and Irving. Both have started before. Irving was never healthy in his first season with the Colts last year. He underwent knee surgery in the 2015 offseason. Moore was a starter in Oakland but didn’t distinguish himself as a reserve last season after being acquired in a trade.
Pagano reiterated that players must continue to work during their time away to ensure they are ready for camp.
“This doesn’t stop,” the coach said. “The eight weeks that they’ve got in now just continues. They’ve got to stay with the strength and conditioning part of it, they’ve got to stay with the mental part of it. They all get to take their iPads home. It’s loaded up with tons of video from the offseason program. They’ve got a strength and conditioning book that we can give them that is mapped out by day until July 26th.
“So there is a ton of stuff that they need to do. You can’t just shut it down. You have to make great choices, you have to be disciplined, you have to make sacrifices. It’s time to be with family, enjoy loved ones, recharge and hit the reset button but you can’t get away from the physical side, the mental side, working on your craft. To do that would be just not being a good pro and not being a good teammate.”
Pagano said after Wednesday’s public workout at Lucas Oil Stadium that he loves this team and the direction it’s headed.
But he’s said that about past teams, and he repeated another familiar refrain.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” he said.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.