In the most popular move of Colts training camp Monday, coach Chuck Pagano persuaded a Steelers fan in the Anderson University stands to change jerseys.
"It's kind of our motto: Either you're all in or you're all out," Pagano said. "Zibby (Tom Zbikowski) saw it and said, 'Coach, we gotta do something about that."
Pagano took a new Andrew Luck jersey over and suggested Zach Simmons, 24, of Anderson, put the No.12 Colts jersey on in place of the Steelers' No.92 James Harrison jersey that Simmons was wearing.
"I said, 'You have to put this one on or we'll have to escort you out of here,' " Pagano said.
Simmons agreed, if he could meet former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and running back Mewelde Moore, both now with the Colts. They met after practice.
Simmons gave his Luck jersey to his friend, a Colts fan, but Pagano insisted he would have thrown him out of practice if he'd kept the Steelers jersey on.
“Absolutely,” Pagano said. “He was a Steelers fan. I would have gotten a lot of cheers out of these people.”
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ANDERSON – Robert Mathis delivered a classic hard hit the second he was asked when he “bought in” to the new Indianapolis Colts defensive staff's style.
“I bought in after we went 2-14,” Mathis said.
Mathis and Dwight Freeney bought in, even though things have changed dramatically for the defensive ends in terms of X's and O's. More importantly, they've bought into the urgency at hand for this 2012 team.
Yes, the team is rebuilding, although that word is somewhat taboo. Yes, the future rests on the arm and leadership – not necessarily in that order – of rookie quarterback Andrew Luck.
But it's also up to the few veterans – Mathis, Freeney, Reggie Wayne, Antoine Bethea, even fourth-year cornerback Jerraud Powers – to set a tone. They might not all be vocal leaders, but they can provide the examples in work ethic, commitment and teamwork that will mold the franchise for the next decade.
“We've got 52, 53 54 guys who are either rookie, first or second year,” Freeney said Monday on the second day of training camp at Anderson University. “Normally, it's been the opposite. You have a lot of energy out here, and excitement, which is great. Us older guys, it's been a lot of adjustment because we've been doing something the same way a long time. It was refreshing seeing coach Dungy out here (Sunday), a familiar face. It's football, you roll with the punches. At the end of the day, we'll be good.”
Luck said Freeney pulled him aside the first time they were in the Colts locker room together. It was a nice gesture, given that offensive and defensive units in the NFL don't always interact. Freeney and Mathis have both reached out to Luck, the rookie said.
“They've been incredibly welcoming and helpful,” Luck said. “I know the first day here, Freeney called me into his office, as he said, by his locker and gave me some heads-up on training camp and things he's learned. I'm very thankful for them going out of their way trying to help the young know-it-all rookie out.”
Wayne, of course, helped organize throwing sessions with Luck at the University of Miami since the end of Luck's Stanford career interfered with Colts' organized team activities.
Powers and Bethea are the only real veterans of the defensive secondary, so they've had to ramp up their leadership, too. There's also some input from newcomer Tom Zbikowski, who came to the Colts from Baltimore (along with defensive end Cory Redding).
“Guys had already been established – Kelvin (Hayden), Marlin (Jackson) – when I got here; everybody knew those were the guys,” Power said. “You might have one or two guys fighting for some time. Right now, there's 10 cornerbacks fighing for a spot. That's got to bring out the best.”
Powers is talking about on-the-field competition, but he also said a number of veterans helped him when he entered the league and he's trying to do the same now, even though he still considers himself a young player. He's 25, so he is young. But this Colts training camp has 47 players under the age of 25.
“It's nice to have other young guys around going through a similar process,” Luck said. “That being said, we have a great core of veterans – Reggie, Robert, Cory Redding, Freeney – to show us how to get it done. It's nice to be part of a fresh start.”
Mathis said it will be up to the defense to help push the new offense to its potential, and that includes getting after Luck. They can't hit Luck since all quarterbacks wear red jerseys to mark them as off-limits to tackles. But they can disrupt something.
“We'll let him know it ain't all sweet and simple,” Mathis said. “”This is the NFL, it's a different breed. But, at the same time, we go as he goes.”
Mathis is right. As Luck goes, so go the Colts. But it doesn't hurt to have some other voices of experience helping to plan the trip.