Indianapolis Colts second-year general manager Ryan Grigson has quickly earned a reputation as someone who isn’t afraid to shake things up a bit.
That quality has become somewhat rare among National Football League executives over the years. Keeping the status quo an easier, and cheaper, option.
Grigson, however, is not one to stand pat. That much is evident as the Colts prepare to head to training camp in late July.
“It’s like when I walked in here for the first time and you see all those [division, conference and Super Bowl] banners, we want to build off that. We set the bar high, our owner sets the bar high. We expect greatness and I feel like any time you take your nose off the grindstone or you stop and smell the roses, it’s not far after that that you’re out of this league,” he voiced Thursday as Indianapolis wrapped up a mandatory three-day mini-camp.
“That’s the mindset. It’s a blue collar mind set. How can we tell the players to adhere to that type of thinking and way of life if we’re not doing it at the top? So that’s how we do it.”
Since the end of the 2012 season, Indianapolis has brought in 36 new players. That’s nearly half of the team’s overall roster.
“It’s not some big grandiose plan. It’s a simple approach and that is to work every single day to get better. We had specific areas we wanted to address and we really targeted guys and pretty much got everyone. That was based off the film,” Grigson said.
“It was based off of even opponents last year when we saw guys in games, even turning to [former assistant general manager] Tommy Telesco one time like ‘We have to get this guy because he’s killing us.’ I don’t have any names but you can probably figure it out.”
Despite an 11-5 record and earning wild-card spot in the NFL playoffs a year ago, the Colts continued to tinker with the team’s foundation.
“We really learned some hard football lessons [last season]. This is a long, grueling season. It’s a grind. Losing three running backs in one [game] is something I’ll never forget,” he pointed out.
“I think at the end of the day it helps us in this process. I [now] have 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.”
Now with 10 voluntary organized team activity practices finished and mandatory mini-camp out of the way, the Colts can now move on to the next stage.
“I just ran out of a meeting with some of our scouts and [assistant GM Jimmy Raye]. We were just talking about how are we going to be able to even re-charge our batteries over the next month. [But] we have to,” Grigson related.
“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 [mini-camp] is excellent to get a little bit of a taste but this is just a very, very small taste of real football.”
Good crowd for public practice -- Approximately 10,000 fans attended the Colts public mini-camp practice at Lucas Oil Stadium Wednesday night The team held a pre-practice autograph session and potential season-ticket buyers were able to check out available seating areas.
Colts owner Jim Irsay was a late arrival to the public mini-camp practice but received a loud greeting from fans when he got there. Irsay recently underwent hip replacement surgery.
Stand and wait -- Recently signed running back Ahmad Bradshaw has had to sit and watch from the sidelines during his first Colts’ two mini-camp practices.
“It’s something that I have to go through,” said Bradshaw. “It’s a process. We are just taking it slow right now. I feel great. I’m ready to go and I’m just happy to be here.”
Grigson doesn’t care that Bradshaw’s first taste of practice with Indianapolis will be in training camp. The former New York Giants standout underwent surgery on his right foot in January and is continuing his rehabilitation.
“Just his style, his production since he’s been in this league. I think he’s a great fit for this offense,” he stressed.
“The thing about him is he’s just turning 27. He’s still a young man. He’s got, we feel, plenty of tread left on the tires. At the end of the day, he’s just a nice fit in terms of his demeanor and the way he approaches football and life.”
Colts coach Chuck Pagano liked what he’s seen of Bradshaw so far.
‘He’s unbelievable. He’s asking questions. He wants to know. He’s a pro, you know? He’s a pro’s pro. You can just tell by sitting back, listening, watching him and [running backs coach] David [Walker] interact. As we went through drills [during the Colts public mini-camp practice], he’s standing right there. He’s got the script in his hand,” Pagano said.
“You can tell, when you see a guy sitting in a [walking] boot, watching practice and doing that, he’s not off sitting on the side doing whatever. He’s into it. The guy, when he gets back taking the mental reps, not being in there, he’ll be ready to go. He won’t miss a beat mentally.”
Finish strong -- Quarterback Andrew Luck knows the importance of finishing mini-camp on a high note.
“I think momentum is overrated but to build some good mojo going into the break is definitely important,” he said.
While Luck will take some time off from football with the end of mini-camp, he will be ready when it’s time to report for training camp at Anderson University.
“I’m glad to have gone through it last year. And you lean on the older guys, the vets. How long should I take off? When do I take off? What to do? And that I think is good with all the communication in the locker room. It works out alright,” he said.
Big in the middle -- The Colts will be considerable bigger up front on defense than in past years, particularly at nose tackle.
Veterans Aubrayo Franklin and Brandon McKinney, along with second-year lineman Josh Chapman, gives Indianapolis plenty of beef. Chapman did not play as a rookie after suffering a knee injury his final season at Alabama.
“Yeah, you love Aubrayo coming is just from a leadership role. Mentorship, I mean. 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 [Chapman],” Pagano voiced.
“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. Aubray’s going to do that.”
McKinney has seen limited on-field work during the mandatory three-day mini-camp. He underwent knee surgery in training camp last year.
“B-Mac’s going to be back from [knee surgery]. He’ll be ready hopefully by training camp,” the Colts coach said.