Training camp is now underway, and these are the days that really matter for the future of the Colts. I'm not speaking strictly about this season, though that's true. It's the big picture beyond this season that I'm concerned about this morning. The brilliance of the Colts over the past decade has been the ability of the team to seamlessly reload year after year.
Next year (assuming there is a next year), the team will face their biggest challenge ever. There are 18 different Colts whose contracts are up at the end of this year. In some ways, it would be easy to say that 2010 is a 'last hurrah' season for the Colts. The key to holding open the 'window' beyond 2011 will be how well the team does in developing new talent beyond this season. While player development goes on all season long, training camp is the most focused and intense time the coaches will have to work with younger players.
A look at the list of 18 (oooh eerie), reveals just how much work the coaches have to do.
1. Peyton Manning-Ok, so we can skip this one. Peyton is going to be resigned, and if he didn't, nothing that happens at training camp could ever help to prepare the franchise for the gaping hole his departure would leave. Let's all think happy thoughts and move along.
2. Adam Vinateiri-Kickers aren't really a development position. AV is either brought back or he's not. This is hardly a worry at this point.
3. Joe Addai-Everyone assumes that this is Addai's last year with a horseshoe on his helmet. I agree and can't see more than 10-15% chance he'd come back. That means that the team desperately needs Don Brown to make big strides in this camp. I love Addai and have been his unwavering supporter at all times, but if I hear Don Brown is ready to take his starting job, I'll do a freaking jig.
4-8. Charlie Johnson, Tony Ugoh, Adam Terry, Andy Alleman, Kyle DeVan-No one is sheding a tear if any of these guys leave, but at the same time we need SOMEONE to step up on the offensive line. It goes without saying that this is by far the most important development to watch in training camp. Ironically, if in 6 months we are all desperately waiting to see if the Colts resign anyone of these four guys, it's a good thing. Is our future LT on the roster now? I hope so, but I wouldn't bet on it.
9. Clint Session-I love Clint Session. I expect him to play at a Pro Bowl level this year. Then I expect him to be allowed to walk in free agency (assuming the old rules of unrestricted free agency still apply...a big 'if ' for sure). The Colts must develop young linebacking talent. Pat Angerer, who could eventually replace Gary Brackett, might have to step into the starting lineup next year if Session goes. For the other young LBs like Humber and Glenn, training camp is their best chance to step and and earn a shot as a key backup and special teams player. If one of them really shines, it will make the team feel better about letting a guy like Session walk.
10. Melvin Bullit- Bullit will likely be important to the Colts' future. While I would love to believe that Bob Sanders is a Colt after this year, it won't happen unless he has an All Pro Season or renegotiates his contract. No one else on the roster would be ready to step in as a starter next year, so that makes Bullit critically important. He's not anywhere near the player a healthy Bob Sanders is, but he's a serviceable starter. I expect the Colts to draft a safety next year.
11-13. Antonio Johnson, Dan Muir, Eric Foster-Our tackle play was better last year, but we shouldn't confuse 'better' with 'good'. The Colts still need more from the DT spots. Maybe it's Moala who jumps into the rotation this year, but ultimately this story is similar to the OL. If we are sweating any of these guys coming back for 2011, then something good happened.
14-18. Kenyatta Dawson, Jaime Silva, Ervin Baldwin, Sam Giguere, Gijon Robinson-These guys have mostly contributed to some degree in the past (except for Baldwin), but all would be lucky to make the squad this year.
So, when you look at the roster and who might leave, the situation isn't as dire as it appears on the surface. Still this training camp is a critical time. Next year, the Colts will likely have needs at running back, safety, linebacker, DT, and along the offensive line. What happens now will go a long way toward determining the future look of the roster next year.
Wayne and Mathis arrived on time, thus officially making their "holdouts" the biggest offseason non-story since the new titles for Moore and Mudd. Also Gonzo and Bob Sanders are expected to practice and not start on the PUP list.
Caldwell anticipates safety Bob Sanders and wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez being ready for Monday morning's first practice. Sanders has played only eight games the past two seasons because of injuries, and Gonzalez missed virtually all of last season with a knee injury. Also, Gonzalez's offseason availability was limited by a hamstring injury.
With the Colts signing veteran corner Deshea Townsand, it seems like we are solid depth wise. Four dependable corners is a good start.
Really, the only black mark is Jerry Hughes not being signed yet, but as I said before, that's totally no big deal. He'll be in in a day or two at the most, I'm sure.
So far, so good. Have at it, boys.
Training Camp opens today, and there are plenty of practices open to the public. While I hope to make it to Wednesday's night practice this week, I can't wait to hear from all of you.
The winner will get an autographed copy of Blue Blood sent to their house.
Have at it folks!
Anthony Bullard offers up this interview with Colts roster hopefull Dudley Guice:no comments
The Happy Horseshoe: What I’m Currently Psyched About
Most players’ feelings about training camp range from weary indifference to outright dread. For some baffling reason, few muster up much rah-rah cheer at the prospect of flinging their bodies around in stifling humidity for hours on end, incurring moderate risk of injury, dehydration and the hilarious discomfort that stems from having to wedge those oversized bodies into narrow dorm room beds every evening. As someone who gets to read all about training camp from my own comfy and sufficiently wide bed at home, however, I enjoy it immensely.
Sure, the drills and scrimmages hold approximately one zillionth as much excitement and significance as a bona fide game. But there’s just something kind of special about seeing those first catches, tackles and breakaway runs. It’s our annual reminder of just how much pure joy can be derived from watching these men put their preternatural talents on display.
The majority of players, quite understandably, view training camp as a necessary evil (or, in “The Old Gunslinger’s” case, an unnecessary evil). But we football junkies are granted that first coveted fix after months of cruel withdrawal: we get to see our players play! Training camp signifies that football---not the mere gossiping and ruminating over it, but the actual PLAYING of it---has returned. For these next couple of weeks, Anderson has supplanted Maui on the list of my dream vacation destinations.
The League’s MVT (Most Valuable Tweeter):
You know those people who spend more time in cyber-space interacting with virtual strangers than developing a rich ‘real’ life in which they focus on the human beings they’ve actually met? I used to mock those people, but sometime over the past few years, I’ve morphed into one. One cause and manifestation of my cyber-addiction is Twitter. For those of you who hate Twitter and similar ‘social networking’ sites; I totally get the myriad reasons why. I’ll nobly sacrifice what little remains of my social life in order to troll for Colts-related tidbits and cyber-stalk our players while you venture outdoors and enjoy interacting with three-dimensional humans rather than spambots.
I’ve been goofily, ‘you-know-you-shouldn’t-care-but-totally-do’ flattered when a few of the players have replied with graciousness and wit to one or two of my tweets. Jerraud Powers isn’t among those players who’ve ever responded. Jerraud’s tweets aren’t as infectiously joyful as the life-loving Pat McAfee’s, nor as surprisingly thoughtful as Pierre Garcon’s, who just recently inquired of his followers whether they’d rather be ‘feared or loved.’ Jerraud’s tweets often consist of song lyrics with which I’m unfamiliar or, like most Tweeters, a simple and occasionally misspelled statement about what he’s doing and where he’s doing it. But once I came across this gem, I knew he had to be the recipient of my highly coveted MVT award:
That’s it! No qualification, no context. I laughed. I pondered the meaning and inspiration behind such an unusual tweet. I had that “yeah, I totally GET that” feeling which my favorite writing, regardless of length or topic, always inspires. I found it a remarkably refreshing change from the boastful and not always sincere ‘I’m awesome and so is every single thing about my life!!!’ tweets that clog up the site. Those two words made me think---(based what I’ll readily grant is scant evidence)---that there’s a darkly amusing depth to our cornerback, and I rather like that in a person. Cyber-applause to you,‘Jpeezy25’, for revealing a streak of snarky misanthropy to which many of your followers can relate.
In YOUR Opinion…:
( Initially, I’d hoped to present the below questions as polls. It quickly became evident that setting those up requires a certain amount of tech savvy. Unfortunately, I‘m someone who can’t use a computer other than to email back that Nigerian prince who wants my bank account number. I’m therefore including the questions here with high hopes that people will respond in the comments section below)
1) Which player’s healthy return is more vital to this season’s success?
A. Bob Sanders
B. Anthony Gonzalez
C. Either or both would be another tasty layer of icing on an already delectable horseshoe-shaped cake, but as long as Peyton stays upright and we can convince team favorite Mike Vanderjagt to return as our trusty kicker (kidding, kidding…), we have a solid chance of returning to the Super Bowl.
2) Which type of fan do you find most irritating?
A. Fans who don’t care enough; why don’t they get it?
B. Fans who care way too much; why don’t they just pop a Nutella-coated Xanax and calm down?
C. Faux-fans who feign enthusiasm just long enough to consume your wings and beer but turn out to lack even a shred of knowledge or appreciation of the game.
3) Which of these Colts superstars most strikes you as a guy you’d want to be friends with off the field (and not purely because he could always afford to pick up the tab): A. Peyton Manning
B. Dwight Freeney
C. Reggie Wayne
D. Dallas Clark
E. Jeff Saturday
F. Someone I neglected to list
G. I wouldn’t want to interact with any of them off the field! What if the guy I’d always liked and admired from afar turned out to be a total miscreant up close and personal? Didn’t someone wise and really, really old advise us to ‘never meet our heroes’?
4) Which of our division rivals strikes the most loathing in your homer hearts?
D. I prefer to reserve my precious antipathy for evil empires like the Patriots, Steelers and Chargers, thank you very much.
Yesterday, I had a book signing at Tea Pots N Treasures just off the circle. Donna Yarema, owner, had a table set up up outside replete with free samples of her personally blended teas. Her incredible staff then scoured the area, informing every living soul that I was there to sign books. I've never had such a warm and enthusiastic reception in my life. I can't believe how hard the girls worked pushing the book.
Donna had blended a special blueberry based tea, and was offering samples in honor of Blue Blood. Listen, I'm not a tea drinker, and I don't even like blueberries, but i have to tell you that this tea was legitimately incredible. Donna's shop is at 7 East Market, and I strongly encourage you all to stop by. She has over 500 blends of tea for sale as well as a wide variety of gifts. She also has a few signed copies of Blue Blood as well. So, if you don't manage to get your autographed copy before I leave for Argentina, you can always check with Donna to see if she has any left.
I had a great time meeting some long time readers. Together we commiserated about the agony of the Super Bowl. For those who came out to the three signings now, I can't tell you how much you've all encouraged me. For one, it's a relief to see how 'normal' 18to88 nation is. After meeting a solid cross section of my readers, I can definitely say that if you are an 18to88 reader, you can be comforted by knowing that you are part of a community of intelligent, professional adults. We all know the stereotypes about blogs and blog readers aren't true, but they persist anyway. I found it immensely gratifying to meet so many gracious and passionate fans of the Colts in the past few weeks. This may sound weird, but it's given me a measure of confidence in my own work. If cool people like all of you are reading, then we must be doing something right. I can't thank you enough for that.
This was the last formal event for Blue Blood. I've been work hard (too hard) on my vacation. I plan on spending the next several days relaxing. I'm heading back down to Cincy tomorrow for the Reds game. I hope to make it to Anderson next week as well. I'll let you all know what day I'm going to be there (my best guess is Wednesday). I also plan on attending the signing of Dungy's new book at the Barns and Noble in Carmel next Saturday. I'd be more than happy to meet you or sign a book (I always have copies with me in the car) at any of those events. So if you see me, don't be shy. You've seen my face, but I don't know yours, so it's on you to come over. I'd love to meet you, so don't worry about bothering me!
It's been a great few weeks, and yesterday was the perfect end. Thanks to everyone who came out, and especially to Donna and the girls! Head over to Tea Pots 'N Treasures. You'll have a great time and won't regret it.
When Nate Dunlevy offered me the opportunity to write a bi-monthly column for the site I’d obsessively read and cyber-stalked for so long, I was elated. We’re talking high-pitched squeals and even an impromptu cheer (which, given my sad lack of coordination, resulted in a prematurely deceased lamp). That elation, however, soon yielded to nagging questions about what this column should and could contain. I realized almost immediately what it wouldn’t contain: in-depth statistical analysis or up-to-the-millisecond-scoop breathlessly brought to you by an ‘insider.’ (Have you guys noticed how many self-proclaimed insiders are floating around cyber-space these days? Have we admitted ‘outsiders’ somehow become the minority?!) Don’t get me wrong; I voraciously devour all NFL news, ranging from credible information to the most laughably flimsy rumors, and I enjoy all the data analysis that I can wrap my tiny stat-challenged brain around. However, just as the best NFL teams strive to play to their strengths and minimize their weaknesses, I think people who aspire to write about those NFL teams would be wise to follow the same strategy. I barely passed my graduate-level statistics course, and I’m not privy to breaking news or TMZ-worthy rumors. What I can do is write from the unabashedly passionate perspective of a fan. I know ‘wry detachment’ is the journalistic style du jour, but that just wouldn’t feel authentic to me, which means it wouldn’t come across as authentic to you. While the specific content will vary, the scope and tone of this column will remain relatively constant: unabashedly biased musings and observations about the Colts, the sport they play and the fans who love them.
One of our most frequently and gleefully quoted sports cliches asserts that there’s ‘no crying in baseball.’ (By the way, if there’s any team I could love a fraction as much as I do the Colts, it’s A League of Their Own’s Rockford Peaches.) As anyone who had the misfortune to encounter me whimpering in the wake of this year’s Super Bowl can attest, however, there is crying in football…at least among its most ardent fans. There’s crying and nail-biting and a seemingly limitless amount of agonizing---(where do I get the stamina?)---about team-related issues. These range from the fairly major to the ludicrously minor, but always have at least one feature in common: they’re problems towards which we devote a tremendous amount of cognitive and emotional energy despite the fact that we can never exert any actual control over the outcomes. That’s a guaranteed recipe for intense, bang-your-head-against-the-wall-without-a-helmet frustration. Intellectually, we know that, but still we wring our hands and grey our hair while worrying about things that no one except fate, the diety of your choice and/or Bill Polian can determine. We do it not because we lack the intelligence and sanity to know that our energy might be better channeled elsewhere, but because we love this team. And love almost inevitably means engaging in some high impact worrying about the object of our affections. In my case, love can also mean finding oneself in regrettable situations involving fans of opposing teams who are roughly three times my size and a precariously perched bucket of blue paint…but I digress.
Of course, most of us wouldn’t be masochistic enough to pour so much of our time, money, hopes and hearts into a relationship that offered nothing but indifference or heartbreak in return. The Colts, with imperial grace, often reward our devotion with on-field success and community-conscious class. They provide us with just enough excitement, pride and satisfaction to compensate for all those times they have us groping frantically for our Kleenex and industrial strength antacids. Just when you’re thinking of disembarking the thrilling but nauseating roller coaster of fandom, the Colts will convince you to buckle up for more. They’re like that boyfriend who surprises you with roses and declarations of affection just when you were on the verge of breaking up with him for good.
Some relationship experts and more than some of the overwrought ballads clogging up my ipod declare that no relationship is truly balanced; that one side always loves the other just a little bit more than that love can ever be reciprocated. I think that’s the derivation of some of the angst-drenched anxiety which inevitably accompanies fandom; the nagging knowledge that our team and even the most genuinely appreciative, fan-friendly players on it will never love and value us as deeply as we do them.
There’s an inherent imbalance in the team-fan relationship: we know all about them as individual athletes and occasionally even as people; to them, however, we blend together into one amorphous, sign-carrying, noise-making, supportive but anonymous entity. We spend hours analyzing how well they perform and expressing just how much it matters to us that they succeed; for the most part, they neither know nor care about what we do or how well we do it. And even when they’ve reduced us to booing or writing vitriolic letters to whichever poor interns are charged with intercepting them, I’m not convinced that the team cares nearly as much about our displeasure as we care about whatever they did to cause it. They can’t, really; in order to compete and to retain a measure of their sanity, they have to keep focusing on themselves, not on our opinions and reactions.
This is neither an indictment on us as fans for caring too much, nor on athletes and team executives for sometimes failing to recognize the depth of our passion. It’s just an acknowledgement that fandom is an awful lot like being in an intense and deceptively complex relationship. Sometimes, it’s fulfilling and utterly exhilarating; other times, it feels like our love and loyalty has forever bound us to a fickle, faithless mate who blithely stomps all over our fragile football-worshipping hearts when they sabotage our chance at a perfect season in Week 15 or lose the biggest game of the---*pauses to take deep, cleansing breath*.
Initially, I found this Meatloaf-esque “they want us, they need us, but there ain’t no way they’re ever gonna love us” idea depressing, but I’ve come to see it as illuminating and even sort of liberating. The more we understand about ourselves as fans and our bizarre, imbalanced but nonetheless meaningful relationship with this team, the clearer and more moderate our expectations of the players, organization and our fan experience will be; and the less likely we are to feel disillusioned and disappointed.Stay tuned for Part 2, coming within the next 24 hours! It’s lighter, fluffier and will be the first piece I’ve written for Nate Dunlevy that’s devoid of references to Meatloaf. no comments
We had a great time at Buckets in Fort Wayne last night on the Estell Walker Show. It was awesome to meet several loyal 18to88 readers. I can't tell you what an encouragement it is to know that so many of you are invested in the site and in Blue Blood.
I tried to comfort Jean who confesses she still wakes up in a cold sweat at night terrified that we picked Ryan Leaf 12 years ago, and the Peyton Manning era has all been a lovely dream.
Don't forget, I'm going to be downtown today, from noon-2 pm I'll be at Teapots N Treasures at 7 Market Street (almost right on the Circle). The owner, Donna, has books on sale now, so if you are downtown, stop in and say hi. The nice thing about this signing is it's extremely chick friendly, so impress your wife or girlfriend by saying you are taking her to a down town antique store for a book signing. By the time she figures it out, it'll be too late!
I just wanted to get your attention one more time!
Just a reminder to our Fort Wayne/Northern Indiana readers to come out to Buckets tonight for the Estel Walker Show on FM 100.1 in Fort Wayne. We'll be talking and signing Blue Blood!
We'll be at Buckets Sports Pub on 6282 West Jefferson in Fort Wayne from 6-7 PM. We'll sign some books, sell some books, and talk some Colts football!
ALSO: INDY READERS DON'T FORGET TOMRROW DOWNTOWN!
On Friday, from noon-2 pm I'll be at Teapots N Treasures at 7 Market Street (almost right on the Circle). The owner, Donna, has books on sale now, so if you are downtown, stop in and say hi. The nice thing about this signing is it's extremely chick friendly, so impress your wife or girlfriend by saying you are taking her to a down town antique store for a book signing. By the time she figures it out, it'll be too late!