INDIANAPOLIS — When it comes to the Indianapolis Colts this season, particularly the team' somewhat surprising 6-4 record, youth will be served.
The Colts turned over nearly two-thirds of its roster from the end of last year to now.
Several first-year players have become important members of the offensive unit, such as quarterback Andrew Luck, running back Vick Ballard, tights ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, wide receivers T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill, and offensive tackle Bradley Sowell.
Interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who has been an assistant in the NFL for 19 years, has a tough time recalling a time when so many rookies have played such an integral part in a team's success.
"These guys have a chance to do something special if they just stay in the moment and don’t worry about the future. Take care of their bodies, take care of each day. I told a couple of them it’s the first time, I’ve been in the National Football League for 20 years, that we’ve had two rookie captains," Arians said this week.
"Dwayne Allen is a captain this week. I’ve never seen it. They’re not rookies anymore. They’ve logged enough snaps to be second or third-year players by now. So we don’t consider them rookies anymore."
And what about the fabled "rookie wall"? Has he seen any issues in that regard to the Colts' 2012 rookie class?
"I started two weeks ago harassing them about the rookie wall and what to expect. It’s more of a mental fatigue than a physical fatigue. They’re all doing a good job of taking care of their bodies right now. They’re running fast and doing those things," Arians explained.
"It’s the mental grind, and this is when the big boys play, December. What you did in November doesn’t mean a daggone thing. It’s what you do in December that they remember. There's no such thing as a rookie wall unless you got here three weeks ago.”
The Colts aren’t the only NFL team that has seen quality play from first-year players. According to a recent story in the New York Times, production around the league by rookies is at an all-time high this year.
Arians thinks he knows why.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt the [new] NFL collective bargaining agreement. The veterans thought they were doing a good thing by shutting down practices for themselves. Rookies were allowed to be here for 10 hours every day all the offseason,” he voiced.
“[The rookies] got all the reps they had never gotten in the past. From OTAs, the extra rookie practices, to rookie practices before training camp, our guys got 200 reps that they would have never gotten before the collective bargaining agreement. So it has really helped rookies.”
And then there’s improved coaching at the high school and collegiate level that better prepares young players in the nuances of life in professional football.
Arians thinks that high schools that participate in 7-on-7 spring tournaments help give prospective quarterbacks, receivers and defensive backs a leg up as they move on up the ladder.
“I think in the states that have [seven-on-seven tournaments], I think they have helped develop some guys in the passing game,” he said. “It’s a shame they can’t have 7-on-7 or 9-on-9 running drills in the summer, teach some of these guys how to block instead of just how to throw the ball and catch the ball. There’s no doubt it’s helped quarterbacks and receivers and defensive backs.”
No decision on Pagano attending Bills game – Since Colts coach Chuck Pagano has been undergoing his second round of chemotherapy treatments, no one knows if he will try to attend Sunday’s home game with Buffalo.
Pagano attended Indianapolis’ home game with Miami three weeks ago, meeting with the team before and after the win.
“I have not heard. He’s taking another drug that was causing a lot of problems in the hospital. He has to go back on it,” Arians said. “I don’t know the name of it. It was causing some severe headaches when he was in the hospital. He has to start that drug Friday, so we’re waiting to see how that reacts. But he’s feeling really good. He looked really good the other day.”
Former Indiana State assistant on Bills coaching staff – Adrian White, who is Buffalo’s assistant defensive backs coach, was on Tim McGuire’s Indiana State coaching staff in 2001.
White played collegiately at Florida but transferred there from Southern Illinois. White was a three-year starter at cornerback for the Gators and later played with the Giants, Packers and Patriots in the NFL.