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.

  • something new?
    yeah, "get ready for something new"... like dirty play, suspensions, embarrasing incidents both on and off the field, and the number after the dash being larger than 4 for the next decade. Gee, I can hardly wait. pathetic
    • I like it
      This is professional football, not water ballet. I want to see mean nasty guys on defense. Our D has stunk for years.
    • Reserving Judgement
      Trash talk does not = good defense. Coach Pagano -- Please see Pacer basketball history circa Ron Artest showing "passion" to the Piston's fans. I agree with Dungy. Fights don't help teamwork and end in penalties. I think what the fans were looking forward to is a little bit more fire from the coach, not the players acting like thugs. Irsay may want to pipe up here and make sure tickets sales aren't further declined by a punk-attitude environment.
      • Grown ups playing a kids sport
        A hostile scrum? Helmets thrown? Smash mouth football is now the Colts' forte? Yeah, right. Let's see how tough the team is after losing their first 8 games with this collection of NFL retreads and 3rd stringers. Sure hope Andrew Luck realizes the challenges that await him this season and for many seasons to come.
      • Where are the real Colts fans
        Wow, why all the negativity? I thought training camp and preseason was when hope burned eternal for all NFL teams. I for one, like the feisty approach. It's football. It's physical. So let's get physical. Besides, some changes were definitely needed. Let's just not get in Roger Goodell cross hairs.
      • We Will See
        There are 90 + players in is a free for all to make the roster with a bunch of hungry guys, you are going to have a fight now and then...that is the antithesis of what the Colts were in the past, they had the same main guys coming back every year...bend but don't break mindset on defense, explosive offense. Addressing Coleen's point about more than 4 losses a season, The Colts had the best record over the past 10 years in football, but won just one Super Bowl. Meanwhile, New England won 3, the Steelers (a very physical and maybe "dirty" team by the way, can you say James Harrison?) won many losses you have during the season does not matter much...The Packers went 15-1 during the regualr season last year, but did not make the Super Bowl, the Patriots were 16-0 in the regular season in 2007, but did not win the Super Bowl...the Colts had 13-3 and 12-4 several times and 14-2 once while Manning was here, but they were a Wild Card the year they won the Super Bowl...having less than 4 losses during the regular season doesn't mean much unless someone runs away with your division...the Giants won the Super Bowl last year, and they barely made the playoffs (9-7 record). If you agree the Super Bowl is the game you want to get to and win as the ultimate goal, your won and lost record is less important than getting in the playoffs. I would have traderd some of those gaudy season victory totals for another Super Bowl victory any day. As for behavior off the field, I am not sure there is necessarily a correlation between being physical on the field and being in trouble off of it. We will see...that tends not to play very well around here (ask the Pacers, who are still trying to get the fans to come back). A new tone and philosophy for the defense was needed, and I am glad they have it...
      • Leadership starts from the top
        This is concerning as a sign of new leadership in the Colts camp. Yes, football is a physical sport and yes, tensions are high as new guys are trying to prove their spot. However, this kind of behavior should never be tolerated from the coaches level. I fully agree that the type of player getting in fights at practice will be the same guy getting stupid penalties for the same thing on Sundays. Nip this in the bud now Colts!
        • .
          If this scares you, then go watch soccer.
          • PLEASE
            A scrap in training camp does not signal the Colts are becoming the RAIDAHS. Fighting, dirty play and penalties was NOT the culture of the Ravens D, but aggressiveness was. Relax, people. And I think we are safe with the about-to-be-team-leader Luck influencing team culture as Peyton did.
          • Amen Rich Marchione!
            Preach it brother...plenty of non-contact sports to watch if people would like...
          • IndyPaul
            Agree 100% The Colts were always respected for their approach to games AND practice. You don't have to kick a teammates knees in to be tough in a game. I always felt it was the bad coaching of the defensive coaches.
          • go watch something else
            if a little scrum during practice bothers you, go take up knitting or something. All I see are a bunch of pansies responding to this. It's about time the colts have some fire in their bellies. It doesn't mean they are thugs.
          • What's wrong with winning with class?
            We had a winning team for many years, while showing class both on and off the field. Do we really need a new "style" of playing? The Pacers have sacrificed many years to break up this style of play, and we're going to willingly allow it to develop in our formerly classy Colts? Very disappointing.
            • Former Colts Fan???
              Former Colts Fan, are you joking? A fight at practice and you're jumping ship????
            • pathetic
              This is pathetic! The Pacers now seemingly have their acts together but now the Colts want to act like thugs?! Totally disappointing.
            • Fact Check
              Mora coached during 2001, the season in which E. James was hurt and Manning's spat on the radio involving Mora. Finally, who can forget "Playoffs." Dungy was hired in 2002.
              • Pathetic
                A scrap at practice was the reason for this column and jump-the-gun comments. I think people are loosing their marbles!!
              • Yeah!
                LOVE IT! Can't wait to see this new team.
              • This is common.
                You guys need to realize how common these are. Like someone else said, its a free for all. People are working like hell to earn a spot. Its hot and your hitting the same people every day. This happens at every teams training camp.
              • Deja vu
                I remember when this same thing happend with the Pacers. New coach with a young team let them fight and talk trash. As I remember that didnt work out too well for the Pacers. The fans didnt respect the team anymore like they did with Reggie and the other "old guys". For two reasons. First, because in Indiana we practice hard, played with respect and held our heads high. Second, because we won games. Its sad to see Irsay throw all that away just beacause of one bad season. I just hope Luck can take control of his team just like Payton did. I would hate for what happend to the Pacers happen to the Colts. It took them over 10 years to start winning games and to get fans back into the seats. I love the Colts and I love the way they played the game with the "Old Guys", but most of all I love watching my team win games. Just like with the Pacers I'll still be watching because I am a true fan...
              • Get tough
                Sure. And we can behead criminals at half time. That's getting tough
              • Yes
                Amen, to the fact that all we need to look to is the "passion" coming from the basketball player formerly known as Ron Artest to see that fighting does not equal good football. Like Dungy said fighting equals lack of self control and discipline. To do well this team will need to take notes from the last 10 years in virtue and add in a few new plays.
                • say what?
                  Would have loved to have had the Ravens D for the past 10 yrs.

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