Not every practice is going to be perfect.
Every NFL team has ups and downs throughout training camp. Some days, the team will look like they are unbeatable. On other days, practice is riddled with mistakes, and the team looks lost.
Sunday turned out to be the latter for the Indianapolis Colts, specifically on the offensive side of the ball. As the blistering sun baked the field at Grand Park, the Colts’ offense struggled to find a rhythm. Dropped passes, wrong routes, and off-target throws were not uncommon to see.
After practice had finished, one man you would think that would be hot about the performance is Matt Ryan. From the moment he came to Indianapolis, teammates and coaches have praised Ryan for his leadership and for keeping everyone in the building accountable. Ryan will routinely stop teammates in the hallway and quiz them about certain plays, where they are supposed to be, and what their assignment is.
So, as practice ended and Ryan spoke to reporters, the expected response would be for Ryan to be utterly upset about what just transpired on the field. However, Ryan’s message was completely different.
“It’s part of it,” Ryan said after practice. “That’s why we practice. We’re out here pushing ourselves to get better and to improve. We’ve had some really good days. We’ve had some days where we haven’t been quite up to the standard. But that’s how the season is going to go, it’s not going to be smooth sailing all the way.”
Ryan has been the face of an NFL franchise for a long time. 2022 marks the 15th training camp of the veteran quarterback’s illustrious career. He has been on teams that have gone deep into the playoffs, even to a Super Bowl, and others that have finished with one of the worst records in the league.
At this point in his career, Ryan has seen it all. He has been with this team long enough now to know whether or not this should be concerning moving forward. The quarterback did not get that sense at all.
“I also think there are a lot of positives too. Whenever you go back and watch practices there’s things we can clean up. And our defense is playing well. We’re going against a really good group of talented players, and that’s going to make this (offense) better.”
The defense showed out, once again, on Sunday, flying around the field and not making things easy for the offense. A unit that added key pieces in the offseason continued to impress, even as Shaquille Leonard continues to watch practice from the sidelines. An aggressive defensive unit led by Gus Bradley is beginning to stack solid days on top of one another.
The defensive MVP of the day was cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore made his presence felt all over the field, deflecting passes away from Michael Pittman Jr., scooping up a Nyheim Hines fumble, and jumping in front of a Ryan pass intended for Parris Campbell for the interception.
“Unfortunately, that’s not the first time (Gilmore) has picked me off,” Ryan laughed. “He’s good. He’s got excellent pattern recognition. Savvy, good ball skills, he’s talented. He’s one of those guys that can sometimes put a seed of doubt in your mind of what he’s going to do. Guys like that, you have to be really accurate and make good decisions, but it’s going to force us to be better.”
Gilmore is not only helping Ryan get better but the young wide receivers as well. For guys like Pittman, Campbell, and rookie Alec Pierce to go up against a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year every day in practice will make the game easier when games begin to count.
As Ryan continues to speak, his tone never changes. It’s calm and collected, and he is not dishing out blame to anyone after a rough practice. Instead, the leadership that the Colts have been talking about all offseason is on full display once again.
“My thing has always been that physical mistakes happen,” Ryan explained. “We’ve got to limit them, and that’s what we work all the time on, developing our physical skills. It happens, and you have to move past them and believe that you’re going to make the play the next play.”
Ryan knows mistakes happen in football. What he is concerned about is the mental errors, things they can control. Mental mistakes may be the difference between wins and losses come this fall.
“The mental mistakes are more the things I get hung up on, and those are things we have to nip in the bud,” he admitted. “Things that we can control. We’re all human, there’s going to be times where you just make a mistake. I’m going to throw a bad ball. We want to limit that for sure, that’s why we work so hard. That’s why the mental mistakes, the things that we can control, we have to be better at that.”
After a rough practice, the Colts quarterback had a central message of controlling what they can control and focusing on cleaning up the mistakes. The Colts are just starting their third week of training camp, and mistakes are bound to happen. The key will be learning from the mistakes and making sure they are cleaned up.
On a day that they were not at their best, Ryan reminded them that the sky isn’t falling. And that will be needed as the team is in a dogfight for the postseason come December and January.
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