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Sports Business

Player fights at Colts camp sign of team's nasty brand shift

August 3, 2012
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A hostile scrum that at one time involved more than a dozen players culminating in a wild helmet flinging incident immediately drew the attention of 3,000 fans and more than a dozen media members at Anderson University Thursday to watch Indianapolis Colts’ training camp.

The mini-melee and another fight between Colts players that same day caught some observers off guard.

This is a team that hadn’t seen a brawl, fight or even a pushing-and-shoving match at a practice since 2001. After that incident, then Colts Coach Tony Dungy sat the guys down and said “we don’t do that here.”

Not under Dungy’s watch. And not under his successor Jim Caldwell’s watch either. Dungy told his players that day in 2001 that fighting showed a lack of control and discipline. And those tendencies could spill over into a game and cause a penalty or suspension, Dungy added.

Besides, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning didn’t like that nonsense anyway. Under Manning, practices were crisp and flowing, with the ball rarely touching the ground. There was no time for scrums and skirmishes. Trash talking became pretty uncommon too.

There was no place for that type of mindset in the Colts regime for more than a decade. And some said it made the team—especially its defense—soft.

But now there’s a new sheriff in town. And a new mindset is taking hold. It’s a mindset new coach Chuck Pagano has imported from Baltimore, a smash-mouth, physical style of play Colts officials think will play well with Hoosiers’ hard-nosed sensibilities.

The Colts' new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky made no apologies for the outbreaks on Thursday.

“That’s the tone we want to set, that’s the mentality we want to have,” Manusky told reporters at Colts camp. “We want to go across that line and strike people. We want to kick people’s butts.”

And, Manusky said, those habits start now. In practice. Manusky promised this Colts defense was going to be about “being physical” and much less about finesse.

Several of the Colts coaches and assistants said that fights in practice are not uncommon for many teams, especially the tough ones like the Giants, Jets, Ravens and Steelers. The Colts’ norm over the last 11 years seems to have run counter to many teams’ cultures.

It didn’t take long after I put some of Manusky’s quotes on The Score’s Twitter account that it started lighting up. “I like it! We were soft,” responded one of my Twitter followers. “It’s about time,” responded another.

The Colts are clearly changing their brand, and right now, Colts fans appear to be buying it. The fans' buy-in is especially important given the Colts have tickets to sell this close to the season's kick-off for the first time since almost the last time there was a players fight at Colts camp.

The Tweepers weren’t the only ones being vocal yesterday. Long before the social media networks started chirping about the Colts, the players themselves were making plenty of noise—not only yelling encouragement to players on their side of the ball but also firing a little trash talk to players on the other side of the ball.

One of the more vocal players Thursday was defensive end Cory Redding.

Redding had a message for fans as well as those he was facing Thursday in practice. Get ready for something new, he said, something that hasn’t been seen here in a very long time.

“The canvas is not complete,” said Redding, who came over from the Baltimore Ravens after last season. “There’s still a lot more room to grow, and we’re still painting our brush every day.”

A lot of Colts fans are eager to see what the completed painting will look like.
 

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