Tis the Season: Indianapolis Colts Begin Training Camp

Memorial Day and the Indianapolis 500 has come and gone. The sparkler-filled Fourth of July weekend is in the rearview mirror, and the dog days of summer have officially commenced.

Other than intense heat, back-to-school shopping, and dying grass, the month of August brings central Indiana one other guarantee. The beginning of FOOTBALL SEASON!

The Indianapolis Colts began their quest for a second consecutive Super Bowl appearance when they reported to training camp at Anderson University this past weekend. When the team originally migrated from Baltimore in 1984, Jim Irsay‘s father, Robert, chose Anderson, Indiana as the location for their first training camp in Indy.

The team stayed there for 15 years, before moving to the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology campus in 1999. Amazingly, Peyton Manning is the only current player who was around when the blue and white were still in Anderson. The Colts spent the next 11 years in Terre Haute, Indiana, but when their contract expired last season, decided to take their camp back home to its original home in Anderson.

Here’s a look at Five Key Questions the Colts face as Training Camp begins:

Five Training Camp Questions for the Indianapolis Colts

-How healthy is Anthony Gonzalez, and how will the wideout situation shake out.

Gonzo’s knee was thought to be nearing full health, and he participated in some of the early summer workouts, but suffered an injury that Bill Polian described as “muscular” and was sidelined for a couple of weeks.  We’ll know more in the coming days. Assuming he’s healthy and back to full-speed, he’ll enter into a competition with Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie for a starting spot. Most people are convinced it’ll be Reggie Wayne and Garcon on the outside, with Collie and Gonzo rotating in the slot, but I’m not so sure.

Gonzalez knows the offense as good as anyone, and he has Manning’s complete trust. Last year was supposed to be his breakthrough season, but unfortunately the knee injury ruined that. Again, assuming he gets a clean bill of health, I’d throw down money on Gonzo finishing with the most receptions between himself and Garcon/Collie.

-With the new additions on the offensive line and change in philosophy, what will the post-Howard Mudd Colts line look like on Opening Day?

Polian said he wanted to get bigger on the O-line after the Super Bowl debacle, and though he didn’t go about in the most tactful way – Polian doesn’t do tactful – it’s exactly what the Colts need after finishing dead last in rushing in ’09. In the offseason, “The Mastermind” added 335-pound tackle Adam Terry and Andy Alleman, a 310-pound guard. He also drafted the hulking Jacques McClendon, who broke every weight room lifting record at the University of Tennessee.

The venerable Jeff Saturday is a lock to start at center, as are Ryan Diem and Charlie Johnson at the tackle positions. The left and right guard spots are where the completion is at. Former left tackle Tony Ugoh and 2009 part-time starters Kyle DeVan and Mike Pollack will be in the mix, as will Alleman and McClendon. Indy desperately needs two of those guys to step their game up in order to have the type of running game a deep playoff run requires.

-With only three CBs with NFL experience, will they sign a veteran to shore up the position, or is the answer already on the team?

Kelvin Hayden and Jerraud Powers, who had a great rookie year, will be the starters, and another rookie surprise from ’09, Jacob Lacey, will handle nickel duty. After that, it’s anybody’s guess. You can scratch off third round pick Kevin Thomas. He tore up his knee in offseason workouts and will likely miss the entire season. That left former Indiana University wide receiver Ray Fisher, and a slew of undrafted free agents competing for the other two spots.

Not feeling confident which such inexperience, the Colts signed DeShea Townsed, a 12-year NFL veteran and a former starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers, in an attempt to solidify the position. It’s anybody’s guess whether he still has anything left in the tank, but at least an effort is being made to rectify the one glaring weakness on the defense.

-Is that Bob Sanders guy finally healthy?

At the moment, it appears yes, he is finally healthy. That could change in one fierce instant though, and that’s why the Colts will baby Sanders throughout camp. No sense using his relentless motor and awesome athleticism until it actually matters. There was a rumor a few weeks ago that his injuries might prevent from ever playing again, but it proved to be just that, an unsubstantiated rumor. If he can somehow defeat the injury monster, Sanders could wreak untold havoc as a blitzing safety in Larry Coyer’s defense. If he succumbs, the Colts will just insert the wildly underappreciated Melvin Bullitt into the lineup. While he doesn’t impact the game the same as Sanders – nobody does – he’s a smart, reliable, above-average NFL safety.

Training camp schedule

The Colts have scheduled 24 practices over 18 days at Anderson University.

Sunday: Players report by 2 p.m.

Monday: 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Tuesday: 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. (afternoon is special teams only)

Wednesday: 9:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Thursday: 3:30 p.m. (special teams only)

Friday: 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Aug. 7: 10:30 a.m.

Aug. 8: No practice

Aug. 9: 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. (afternoon is special teams only)

Aug. 10: 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Aug. 11: 9:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Make sure to check back with our Indianapolis sports blog over the next few weeks, as we’ll be keeping you up to date on all the  stories to emerge from Colts training camp.