Thirty-seven rookies, including 13 tryout players, put on a Colts uniform for the first time Friday as the team opened a three-day rookie mini camp. Intermittent rain forced the first day of practice inside at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
"The effort was fabulous," said Colts head coach Chuck Pagano after the first on-field workout in shorts and no pads. "They came in in probably better shape than any of us anticipated for what we put them through. We're pleased overall with the first day."
Among the rookies are seven draft picks. First round pick Bjoern Werner wore a white number 92 jersey at outside linebacker. His new head coach liked what he saw from his top rookie prospect.
"Kind of what we thought and probably even better," said Pagano. "He's in great shape. He works out all the time. He's a really athletic football player. He can bend. He's got first step explosion. All the things that we saw on tape, up close and personal now, it's even more impressive."
"It's your job," said Werner after his first Colts practice. "You can do this all day and just focus on it. It's amazing. I was looking forward to this for a while now. This is the best job ever."
Werner is pass rusher from Florida State. He's expected to replace Dwight Freeney and play on the opposite side of Robert Mathis.
"He seems like a really cool veteran who wants to help," said Werner when asked about meeting Mathis, whose locker is just a few down from Werner's. "I hope he does. I'm going to ask him questions."
"He's a really bright guy," said Pagano of Werner. "We threw a ton of material and information at those guys on both sides of the ball. He came out here and wasn't a deer in headlights. He understands and gets football. For playing the short time that he has, he really understands."
Growing up in Berlin, Germany, Werner did not start playing tackle football until he was 15 years old.
Third round draft pick Hugh Thornton, a guard from Illinois, will remember his mother Michele this weekend as he fulfills his NFL dream. His mother was murdered in 2004 in the family's home while Hugh slept in another room.
"There's no better way to celebrate someone than through achievement," said Thornton. "I made it here. I'll be practicing on Mother's Day. I know that my mom is going to be proud looking down on me."
The rookie camp runs through Sunday.
"It's a beginner's mentality for all of us," said Pagano. "It's great for the coaches, starting over. And it's great for these kids."