Mini-Camp Practice Notes

The Colts opened their doors to the public for a mini-camp practice Saturday afternoon, but had several key players sitting out. What did we see from the players that were there? Eric Hartz opens his notebook from the practice inside!

Before we dive into the events at Lucas Oil Stadium, I wanted to share a couple of thoughts about Reggie Wayne and his absence from the team's offseason program.

As most Colts fans know, Wayne released a statement last week saying he and the Colts were in "disagreement" with his contract situation. Wayne has two years left on his deal, but apparently feels the need to renegotiate it now — a not-unheard of thing in NFL circles.

While I won't comment on the merits of Reggie's (or Robert Mathis') claim, I do think this is something we'll see more of around the NFL as training camps approach. With no CBA in place, an uncapped year and a potential work stoppage looming in 2011, players want to try to change the rules, while the team owners — especially the Colts — want to play the same old game.

What should be cause for worry for Colts fans is that it's Reggie Wayne that's upset, and that is bad news for the team's offseason program. Why? Reggie normally trains in Florida, only returning to Indianapolis for mini-camp and training camp, anyway.

Here's the thing: Reggie owned those two events last summer and helped set the tone for a Super Bowl season. At mini-camp at Franklin College in 2009, he was the first one off the bus, charging onto the field with a determined look on his face and in the best shape of his life. Once on it, he was the best player there, and there's no doubt he gave the team a spark.

At training camp, he arrived in a dump truck, wearing a hard hat and proclaiming "Super Bowl Under Construction." The blue-collar approach continued throughout camp, as he dazzled fans daily and outclassed most of the team's defensive backs. There's no doubt that Wayne's preparation and leadership were a big part of why the Colts went to the Super Bowl.

I believe — have no doubt, actually — that Wayne will be in a Horseshoe when the season begins, and most likely when training camp begins. But I also believe that the foundation for a special season can be laid as far back as June. It doesn't have to be, but it can. Last year, it was. This year? We'll have to see if there's any long-term impact. My hunch is no, and that this whole problem gets straightened out by training camp.

Onto my notes from Saturday's 105-minute practice at Lucas Oil Stadium. As always, you wish you could see more, and Lucas Oil made for a bit of a less intimate setting than Franklin College or training camp, but here's what I did see, in no particular order:

  • I tried to watch the defensive linemen work a little bit, but wasn't able to pick up too much. Jerry Hughes seems to have a fairly quick first step, and I think Fili Moala looks like he has filled out a bit.

    Among the linemen, John Chick is the skinniest. Marlon Favorite is the widest — if he has the quickness to go with his girth, keep an eye on him as the summer goes on to see if he can get into the defensive tackle mix.

  • I watched the rookie wide receivers quite a bit. I think Blair White is the one with the best chance of making the roster, he seemed smooth and fast, particularly for a rookie. Dudley Guice was also impressive, a bit of a smoother Roy Hall. He did drop a pass that hit him right in the hands, however.

    Jordan Sisco, a rookie from Canada, made a nice diving catch, but struggled to get open at times as well.

  • In my initial mock 53-man roster, I had Sam Giguere as the fifth wide receiver on the roster, but at this point I think Taj Smith looks better than he did. Taj has always impressed me and Saturday was no different. He looked fast, got open, and caught just about everything that came his way. He also ran a reverse out of the slot during the running game walk-through. We saw that from Austin Collie a few times last year, as well.

  • Rookie tight end Brody Eldridge got a fair amount of attention during the practice, as Peyton Manning threw to him several times. My notes say, "Eldridge is not very fast, but appears to be very technically sound. He also seemed involved, asking questions of the coaching staff and other players."

    Eldridge got open down the right sideline for a touchdown on a nice pump-fake from Peyton Manning during seven-on-seven drills. On the very next play, however, Eldridge was open on a post in between three players. Manning threw a strike to him, and he caught it, but lost the ball putting it away. It looked like he may have tried to run before securing the ball, and it fell incomplete. The rookie had to endure a baleful glare from a hands-on-hips Manning while he jogged back to the line of scrimmage. Eldridge also fumbled a ball in the 11-on-11 segment to end the practice, but recovered it.

  • Manning was sharp, completing the first six or seven passes of the seven-on-seven segment. He did make one bad decision, forcing a ball to the sidelines that Donye' McCleskey intercepted and would have returned for a touchdown.

    My wife looked at me and said, "Well, that was just a stupid throw." No more analysis was really needed.

  • Curtis Painter had his moments. He completed a long pass to Blair White down the left sideline, but also fumbled a snap during the 11-on-11 segment.

  • In addition to McCleskey's pick of Manning, two undrafted defensive players also made nice plays — Pete Ittersagen on breakup of a long pass to Smith and LB Trevor Anderson, who took a ball away from Giguere for an interception after Giguere juggled it.

  • Players sitting out of the practice included Dwight Freeney, Antonio Johnson, J.D. Skolnitsky, Ervin Baldwin, Ricardo Mathews, Anthony Gonzalez, Donald Brown, Tony Ugoh, Jamey Richard and Jaimie Thomas. I also didn't see Jacob Tamme or Tom Santi, but I didn't specifically look to see if they were there and not practicing, or if I overlooked one of both them. Reggie Wayne, Antoine Bethea and Robert Mathis were all absent.

There are a few more tidbits from the Twitter timeline, if you missed the updates on Saturday.

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