Football is a contact sport. Teams have to hit each other at some point to truly practice the game. Tuesday in Anderson, the Colts put on full pads for the first time in this year's training camp.
"I look forward to pads every day," said Colts cornerback Darius Butler with a smile. "But we've got them on today. We've got to take care of each other, but at the same time compete and get better."
The Colts enjoyed an overcast, very pleasant afternoon for the two-and-a-half hour practice. The shoulder pads popped for the first time.
"Our guys are going to do a great job," said Colts head coach Chuck Pagano. "Our coaches are going to do a great job. We're going to make it competitive. But we're going to be smart, so we don't lose anybody."
But the Colts did lose nose tackle Brandon McKinney before the season even starts. The Colts placed McKinney on injured reserve Tuesday, meaning he is out for the season.
The move comes one day after McKinnney experienced swelling in his surgically-repaired left knee. McKinney spent all of last season on injured reserve as well after injuring that same knee in the preseason. So after signing with the Colts in 2012, McKinney has never played a down for the team in the regular season. McKinney watched practice from the sideline Tuesday.
Colts on the run
The Colts want to improve their running game. The Colts ranked 22nd in the NFL in rushing last season, 104 yards per game. The team ran the ball only 41 percent of their plays. Even with a franchise quarterback like Andrew Luck, the Colts want a more balanced offense.
"Much more than last year, obviously," said Pagano. "I know we got put in some situations where we got behind and we had to drop back 45, 50 times in some games just to come back and win those football games. But certainly we want balance. Again, they understand first day in pads today the mindset we're trying to develop is run the ball and stop the run."
The Colts have added a fullback to their offense under new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.
"Fullbacks obviously help open up the run game and that will be good for alleviating some pressure on our pass game," said Colts running back Donald Brown. "That's what we need to do. We need to run the ball better and take some pressure off Andrew (Luck) and the wide receivers."
Vick Ballard started at running back the final 12 games of his rookie season last year. He led the Colts in rushing with 814 yards, averaging just under four yards a carry.
"I think I can pretty much take any workload they put on me," said Ballard. "But if I get 15-20 carries a game, I feel like that is plenty."
Riley patients visit camp
Ten patients from IU Health Riley Hospital for Children and their families visited training camp Tuesday as guests of the Colts.
The children watched the afternoon practice and joined the team huddle at the end of the workout. Luck and other players signed autographs and posed for pictures with the children.
Pagano can relate to these young patients in their battles against serious illness and disease. he missed most of last season while undergoing treatment for leukemia, but has enjoyed a complete remission.
"It's an opportunity for our family, for our organization, for our team to give back and to serve,' said Pagano. "We talk about serving. We talk about self and we talk about team. It's an honor to have those kids from Riley coming out here. Certainly we all understand first-hand what they're going through, the battles that they're fighting, the strain that it is on their families, those types of things. They're an inspiration to us, just to see them fight and how strong and come out here with smiles on their faces and the way they attack the bully that they're battling."
Papa Bethea absent from training camp
One player was missing from Colts training camp Tuesday. Safety Antoine Bethea left Anderson University to be present for the birth of his daughter. Coach Chuck Pagano said he received text messages from Bethea indicating that labor was induced Monday night and the baby was born early Tuesday morning.
Bethea sent out this message on his Twitter feed: "I appreciate the love from my Colts family!!! Thank you so much!!"