INDIANAPOLIS -- General manager Ryan Grigson learned a lot in his first year as the personnel chief of the Indianapolis Colts.
There were landmark decisions -- releasing face of the franchise and all-time great quarterback Peyton Manning, firing and then hiring a head coach, and swimmingly navigating -- near-instant success on the field and an unprecedented challenge of keeping his franchise moving forward while Chuck Pagano battled -- and beat -- leukemia.
"We really learned some hard football lessons (last season). This is a long, grueling season. It's a grind," Grigson said Thursday. "Losing three running backs in one day is something I'll never forget. And I think at the end of the day it helps us in this process. It always has it in the back of my mind to always be prepared. You have to be prepared. You can never let off the gas. You never know what tomorrow's going to bring."
For Grigson, tomorrow is another opportunity to pad his roster and improve the depth that was so frequently challenged in 2012. Monday, he finalized a contract with running back Ahmad Bradshaw, a veteran with starting experience on the NFL's brightest stage with the New York Giants. The deal follows a track Grigson used to reel in nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin, safety LaRon Landry and wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey since last season ended.
"You love Aubrayo coming in just from a leadership role. Mentorship, I mean," Pagano said. "He knows how to play the game. He's got tons of snaps under his belt, obviously great experience. He's going to be a great mentor to Chappy (second-year lineman Josh Chapman). And Chappy's like sticking a 700- or 800-pound safe in the middle. You're not going to move him. Someone tries to come in the house and take the safe, it ain't happening. So he's going to demand double-teams in there. Aubrayo's going to do that."
Bradshaw, 27, is recovering from his latest foot surgery and unable to participate in on-field workouts until training camp. It's not a guarantee Bradshaw will start over Vick Ballard.
"I feel great," he said. "After the surgery, I feel even more younger. I can't wait to prove myself and prove to everybody else that I can be a dominant back in this league."
The depth chart won't be sorted out in June, but Grigson said he has a great feel for the roster he assembled and after barely breaking for a day off in his first 18 months on the job, he's looking forward to an extended breather.
"I just ran out of a meeting with some of our scouts and (assistant general manager Jimmy Raye). We were just talking about how are we going to be able to even recharge our batteries over the next month?" Grigson said. "We have to. Seeing some of this team's speed, seeing the size of our team now. It's markedly bigger, stronger, and faster than it was last year. It's exciting because you want to see it with the pads on. That's the whole deal. This (minicamp) is excellent to get a little bit of a taste but this is just a very, very small taste of real football."