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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Caldwell ready to get started with rookies

Monday, April 27, 2009


AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jim Caldwell just completed his longest weekend as the Colts' new coach.

Now he's eager to get to work.

While Caldwell gave the usually glowing remarks about the eight players Indianapolis selected in the weekend's NFL draft, he's more interested now in seeing how they perform on the field -- his first official practices as coach.

"I'm excited about it, that's for sure," Caldwell said after Indianapolis made its final draft pick Sunday. "I wish we could get going tomorrow. We have a little preparation to do, so it's going to be a lot of fun."

Actually, it's all about getting acclimated to a new lifestyle.

Although the Colts have seen their new players on tape, in shorts and in college games, no team officials can be sure how they will react against better competition until they see them firsthand.

That starts Friday when the Colts bring in their draft picks and undrafted free agents for three days of rookie workouts. Practices at the team complex are closed to the public.

The goal is simple: Hand out playbooks, get the newcomers acclimated to the expectations, the system, the coaches and the practice regimen.

Those rookies won't be the only ones adapting to a new routine.

Caldwell replaced Tony Dungy in January, and for the first time since Dungy's brief absence following his son's death in late 2005, it will be Caldwell running the show. He hasn't held a head coaching job since leaving Wake Forest after the 2000 season.

But this is the week things really set in.

Yes, Caldwell has made some changes, notably changing defensive coordinators and special teams coaches. He is about to start putting a stronger imprint on the team. Team president Bill Polian and Caldwell decided to take heavier defensive tackles over the weekend, a philosophical change from the team's previous preference for speed over brawn.

Indy responded by taking two defensive tackles weighing over 300 pounds, Southern Cal's Fili Moala and Michigan's Terrance Taylor, in Caldwell's first draft as head coach.

The reason: Indy ranked near the bottom of the league against the run last season, a glaring weakness that proved costly in January's playoff loss at San Diego.

"We feel good about what we did, and we stayed within the parameters we set," Polian said. "We didn't have to break the mold in any way except that we wanted to get bigger at defensive tackle and we did that."

In addition to taking the defensive tackles, they also selected Auburn cornerback Jerraud Powers.

The next step is finding out how well those players, and everyone else, fits the Colts system.

First-round pick Donald Brown has all the characteristics Indy traditionally seeks in a running back -- he's smart, durable, productive, a solid receiver and a willing blocker.

Fourth-round choice Austin Collie also seems a perfect fit with solid hands and crisp routes, and he can make catches over the middle. Sixth-round pick Curtis Painter provides the Colts with something they've spent years looking for, a late-round quarterback with a strong arm and a mind proficient enough to run Indy's offense.

Few are better equipped to make those judgments than Caldwell, who coached Peyton Manning and the quarterbacks for the previous seven seasons.

But until Saturday, he played a limited role on draft weekend.

Not any longer.

"It's certainly been a productive two days," Caldwell said Sunday. "It's been long, but it's been very exciting and it's always fun to participate in a well-oiled machine."

Caldwell can't wait to see what the draft picks and unsigned free agents can do for his team.

"One of the things we'll have to do is bring them in and see," he said.

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