Colts make progress before heading home from camp
Andrew Luck may have been the feature attraction at Colts' training camp this year - until Pat McAfee stole the show Friday.
With about an hour left in the nearly 3-hour practice, new coach Chuck Pagano sent McAfee, the punter and backup kicker, in to try a 59-yard field goal that would have sent everyone home early. Fans roared as they thought it went through the uprights, but it tailed off to the left.
So Pagano gave McAfee a second chance. He sent him out for a 38-yarder that he made to the delight of fans and the relief of his teammates eager to leave town.
''It was a good camp for the Indianapolis Colts and a good way to end it. I'll see you later,'' McAfee said before riding off on a golf cart and heading home to Indy.
For the Colts (No. 32 in AP Pro32), this was an unusual training camp. From weather changes to injuries, the implementation of a new offense and defense and all the new faces, it was barely recognizable.
While most fans focused their attention on Luck, Pagano had to keep track of everything else at Anderson University.
''The most important thing is that we laid the foundation,'' Pagano said. ''During the offseason, we talked about what we needed to do, and everybody came back in great shape. Everybody just bought in.''
Certainly, there were good signs in Anderson.
Luck was impressive throughout camp, going 319 for 447 with 28 touchdowns and nine interceptions in team drills during camp. He was even better in live action, going 10 of 16 for 188 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions with a quarterback rating of 142.6 in a 38-3 preseason win over St. Louis. His first chance to show the nation what he can do comes Sunday night at Pittsburgh (No. 7).
Numbers don't matter to Pagano.
''I just see the balls spinning out of his hand and getting caught by the receivers,'' Pagano said.
Veteran receivers Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie looked like themselves and rookies LaVon Brazill, T.Y. Hilton and Dwayne Allen seemed in sync with Luck, too.
Robert Mathis, a Pro Bowl defensive end, looked comfortable at his new position, outside linebacker, and former Ravens Cory Redding and Tom Zbikowski emerged as vocal leaders on a defense that made a smoother transition from the 4-3 defense the Colts used for a decade.
''I think we came a long way,'' safety Antoine Bethea said. ''It's a totally different scheme from what most of us have played in, and there are a lot of different things that you have to overcome. But I think they've done a good job as coaches to put this scheme in place so we could really hone in on it.''
There were plenty of obstacles, too.
Indy lost offensive tackle Ben Ijalana and linebacker A.J. Edds on the first day of camp. Both have season-ending knee injuries. Indy also has lost backup linebacker Scott Lutrus for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, starting inside linebacker Pat Angerer for six weeks with a fractured foot and starting offensive guard Mike McGlynn indefinitely with a sprained left ankle.
A rare rash of rain in a previously dry summer forced Pagano to move seven practices, mostly walkthroughs, indoors and the new coach took his team back to Indy on buses for a full indoor practice last week. Even Thursday night's scheduled night practice was moved up to an afternoon workout because of the threat of severe storms.
There were visits from former coach Tony Dungy, former quarterbacks Jeff George and Jim Sorgi, former offensive tackle Tarik Glenn and Luck's father, Oliver.
None of it proved to be a distraction.
Luck looked good, showing everyone why the Colts were willing to part ways with Peyton Manning in March and start a new era.
''We've barely even scratched the surface,'' Wayne said. ''Camp's over, but we're still going on, so we've got to continue to stay in camp mode when we get home and continue to get better.''
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