Colts, Pagano evaluating 35 new faces

The SportsXchange

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano is amazed when he looks at the roster of players available during the team's offseason workouts.

Since the end of the 2012 season, the changes in personnel have been interesting. Gone are Dwight Freeney, Jerry Hughes, Donnie Avery, Jerraud Powers, Tom Zbikowski, and Antonio Johnson. Additions include LaRon Landry, Gosder Cherilus, Erik Walden, Ricky Jean Francois, Aubrayo Franklin, Greg Toler, Donald Thomas, Matt Hasselbeck, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Lawrence Sidbury.

Overall, there are 35 new players on the Colts roster during OTAs that weren't on the squad when last season concluded.

"Participation has been outstanding. We're making progress," Pagano said after the team's fifth OTA workout of the spring Wednesday. "Our goal is to come out here with the intention of getting better at something every day individually, as position groups, offense, defense, special teams. And as a team. We feel like we're headed in the right direction."

Some minor injuries have held a few players out of the workouts, including Heyward-Bey and Toler.

"(Darrius) tweaked a hammy (Tuesday). Nothing serious. But at this time of the year, we're obviously going to err on the side of caution. It was our decision to hold him out (of Wednesday's workout). He probably could have went. But we said wait and let's see how you feel [Thursday)," the Colts coach explained.

"(Toler) was the same thing. He's got a sore foot. He went (in Tuesday's practice), went full practice. But it's the same type thing as DHB. We're going to err on the side of caution. Especially at this time of the year and not push it. At this time of the year, they really want to (practice). We've got to protect those guys from themselves because they want to be a part of everything. To put them out there and force the issue with them and then have something serious happen this time of year wouldn't be very smart on my part."

Overall, for the first two weeks of OTA workouts, Pagano likes what he's seen thus far.

"There's only so much you can do from a physical standpoint to tell how good of shape they are. But really what we're throwing at them mentally, seeing how much is sticking. We're throwing a lot of mud against the wall. And we're seeing how much is sticking," he said.

"From that standpoint, you can kind of tell a lot of where we're heading to. Guys are flying around. Guys are communicating. So that's the probably the biggest thing we can measure right now. The communication part of it, execution, technique."

Again, the influx of so many new players to the team is taking an effect.

"We've got a lot of new faces. It's crazy. I didn't even realize [the overall number of new players] until I read the stat myself. From that standpoint, in terms of coming in and jelling in the locker room, learning the systems on both sides of the ball," Pagano said.

"Between the (veteran) free agents, the draft choices, the college free agents, those type of guys, everybody we brought in here, they've done a great job of picking up the information. The coaches have been doing an outstanding job of presenting the information to them. So a bunch [of information] is sticking."
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