INDIANAPOLIS – Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis can already detect a difference in this year’s Colts.
Twelve months ago, the veterans were still explaining to teammates that they couldn’t afford to wait a season or two to start winning and virtually banned the word rebuild from the locker room.
Eventually, everyone got the message, and the Colts responded with a stunning nine-game improvement that put them back in the playoffs.
These days, Wayne and Mathis aren’t talking as much or as loudly, though the goal has not changed. Win the Super Bowl.
So when the Colts report to training camp this week at Anderson University Wayne and Mathis are quietly raising the expectations.
Better than last year, Wayne said when asked about his thoughts heading into camp. Here are five things to know about Colts’ camp:
1. Revamped blueprint: Indianapolis’ biggest offseason need was finding more protection for Andrew Luck, so the Colts signed two key free agents, Gosder Cherilus and Donald Thomas, then drafted Hugh Thornton and Khaled Holmes. Indianapolis also added former Giants Super Bowl hero Ahmad Bradshaw to shore up the ground game.
But Bradshaw was placed on the physically unable to perform list Tuesday. Bradshaw is trying to recover from January surgery on his right foot.
Safety John Boyett (knees), a sixth-round draft pick in April, was put on the non-football injury list.
2. More pep in the offense: When Bruce Arians took his high-risk, high-reward offense to Arizona, Luck was reunited with his college offensive coordinator (Pep Hamilton). The good news is Luck already knows the offense, how it works best and why his efficiency numbers are bound to improve. .
3. Free agency – hit or bust: With so much room under the salary cap, the Colts gambled with a rare offseason spending spree. They brought in players they believed could immediately help such as Cherilus and Pro Bowl safety LaRon Landry. If the signings pan out, the Colts could be a big hit.
4. Pass rushers wanted: When Dwight Freeney walked away in free agency, it broke up one of the NFL’s most feared pass-rushing tandems. It’s still unclear who will help perennial Pro Bowler Mathis avoid extra blockers. Indianapolis took Bjoern Werner with its first-round draft pick, hoping he can make an immediate pass-rushing impact.
5. In search of motivation: Late last season, Arians said that when pro players are asked to play for something other than a paycheck they do amazing things. He was alluding to the Colts’ response to proving wrong the critics who picked them to be the league’s worst team while also showing they could keep winning until Pagano returned from his battle with leukemia. It won’t be the same way this time around. The Colts won’t sneak up on anyone.