Indianapolis opens training camp with big expectations
ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) Andrew Luck was tired of watching his friends report to training camp. By Saturday, the Colts' now clean-shaven quarterback couldn't wait any longer.
He was one of the first players to arrive at Anderson University, a Division III school about 30 miles northeast of Indianapolis where the Colts will spend the next two weeks, and got right back to work.
''I think, one, you ignore the outside expectations,'' said Luck, downplaying the Super Bowl hype that has steadily increased throughout the offseason. ''Two, the inside expectations have always been that - get to playoffs and give yourself a chance to get to the Super Bowl. That hasn't changed.''
Training camp has, though.
For the first time in more than a decade, there was no grand entrance.
Edgerrin James started the tradition in 2002 when he showed up in a taxi after his driver's license was suspended. Reggie Wayne carried it on when James signed with the Arizona Cardinals in 2006.
Wayne's dramatic arrivals included driving in with a construction crew and as part of a military convoy, flying on a medical helicopter and riding in an IndyCar. There was always a theme, too. Wayne explained that training camp was where title contenders install the foundation, learn to work as a team and demonstrate nothing should be taken for granted.
Indy chose not to re-sign the 36-year-old receiver, No. 2 on the franchise's career lists.
''I knew we would miss him on the field and in the locker room and I knew we would miss that training camp entrance,'' punter Pat McAfee said. ''All those little things will be missed. I'm actually still waiting for him to parachute out of the sky.''
Wayne's absence isn't the only notable change Saturday.
Receiver Andre Johnson and running back Frank Gore, longtime fixtures in Houston and San Francisco and former college teammates at Miami, are back together this time in blue and white.
Outside linebacker Robert Mathis, the 2013 NFL sacks champion, is not expected to start working out with the team when the on-field work begins Sunday. He is still recovering from a torn left Achilles' tendon and hopes to be ready for the Sept. 13 season opener against Buffalo.
Running back Daniel ''Boom'' Herron showed up in personalized socks that included an image of himself, second-year receiver Donte Moncrief rode around on a personal motorized transporter called a ''Sky Walker'' while Luck and Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton both were asked contract questions.
The Colts also did their best to avoid the debate over Tom Brady's four-game suspension or his expected return Oct. 18 in Indy.
''It should make our Sunday night game very exciting,'' said McAfee, who acknowledged he wished Brady wasn't playing that night either.
The biggest difference is the perception of the Colts.
Four years after starting the season ranked as the NFL's worst team and three years after being considered an emerging contender, Indianapolis is in the mix to win another Super bowl title.
Brady's looming suspension has prompted some odds-makers to make the AFC runner-ups the conference favorite even though the defending Super Bowl champs are 4-0 against Luck with an average victory margin of 29.0 points.
Players and coaches realize the preseason expectations mean about as much now as they did in 2012. And once again, the Colts are acting like a team that has something to prove.
''I think at this camp, the coaches are going to have to pull the reins back a little bit because the intensity will be so high,'' four-time Super Bowl winning kicker Adam Vinatieri said.
What all of it means is still to be determined.
But Luck begins this season with the deepest receiving corps and most proven running back of his career. He also has two tight ends hoping to come up with big numbers in contract years. There are three Pro Bowlers on special teams, a defense still being revamped and an offensive line that continues to be a work in progress after projected starting right tackle Gosder Cherilus was released last Sunday.
And Luck is ready to get started.
''It's fun. It's a little bit like Christmas, the first day of camp,'' Luck said. ''I think the excitement is there, it's great to see the guys after being away from them for a month or five weeks and it's time to work.''