While Monday mornings elicit a slight feeling of despair amongst the Circle City‘s workers, for some this particular Monday morning was a tougher pill to swallow than usual. That’s because today the Indianapolis Colts kicked off training camp in Terre Haute, Indiana, and with it dashed the dreams of wives and girlfriends all over. For many Indianapolis residents this means that the garden will not be weeded, the sink will continue to leak and there is no way the shed is being painted because Sundays will be spent parked on the couch cheering on the Colts.
Long known for their stability throughout the organization, this year’s team is faced with the challenge of replacing some key figures both on the field and off it. The kings of the Indianapolis sports scene will take the field at Lucas Oil Stadium without long-time head coach Tony Dungy calling the shots for the first time in eight years. While most Colts fans wish Tony’s retirement would have come later, on it was not exactly a shock this offseason when he decided to step down. With the knowledge that Dungy could hang them up at anytime, the Boys in Blue named Jim Caldwell the head coach in waiting prior to the ’08 campaign. Caldwell, an assistant to Tony Dungy since 2002, has been around the team long enough to where the transition was an easy one for both players and management. While Jim Caldwell will be much more vocal come Sundays this year in downtown Indianapolis than Dungy ever was, the teams overall strategy and playbook have changed little.
Other coaching moves that made headlines this offseason were the sudden retirements of long-time coaches Tom Moore and Howard Mudd. The offensive coordinator and offensive-line coach respectively both retired when they learned that due to their ages, 70 and 67, they would risk loseing part of their NFL pensions if they continued working on the sidelines. Luckily for Indianapolis Colts fans, they have since been retained as special consultants and will be with the team all year long.
One final key player missing from the Colts training camp this year is much-loved wide receiver Marvin Harrison. After refusing to restructure his deal this past winter the Colts cut ties with Harrison who was scheduled to make thirteen million dollars this season. While it will be hard to look out on the field and not see number 88 streaking down the sideline Harrison’s best years are well behind him and it was not feasible to bring him back.
Even without Marvin to hook-up with, all-pro quarterback Peyton Manning will not be without plenty of options when it comes to the passing game. Reggie Wayne put an end to the argument last season as to who was the Colts number one receiver, and third year player Anthony Gonzalez has shown that he is ready to make the leap to game-breaker. Add to the mix sure handed tight end Dallas Clark and there are few quarterbacks in the NFL that would not be happy to trade places with Manning. One more story to watch for this training camp is to see how starting running back Jospeh Addai responds to the drafting of University of Connecticut running back Donald Brown. Brown amassed over 2,000 yards running last year in the college game and should push Addai to return to his elite form.
For a team known for their consistency, the Indianapolis Colts find themselves in unknown waters. However, if you have watched this team in the past you know more than likely this will only be a hiccup on the way to the playoffs. No matter if you are a season ticket holder or prefer to watch the Colts from one of Indianapolis bars around town just know that the Colts will be ready. Will you?