By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
It’s the height of folly to make definitive judgments on football players wearing shorts and helmets in non-contact drills.
But there is plenty to be learned from this weekend’s three-day rookie mini-camp, and first-round pick Bjoern Werner made a favorable impression during his first practice with the Indianapolis Colts.
“You see him running around here doing some things, all the things we saw on tape,” head coach Chuck Pagano said Friday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Complex. “Up close and personal now, it’s even more impressive.”
Werner and 36 other Colts prospects — including fellow draft picks, undrafted free agent signees, a few assorted players who spent last season on practice squads around the league and 13 players in town on a tryout basis — have busy days ahead.
The players attend meetings in the morning then head outside for a quick walkthrough. After another round of meetings, it’s out to the practice field to show how well they can apply what they’ve just learned.
And the information is coming in fast and furious.
“Everything is new,” Werner said. “What I got taught at Florida State is over. My coach has new techniques, a new language, and I just have to learn it now.”
Werner held his own during 11-on-11 drills at Indianapolis’ indoor practice facility, and Pagano said he’s already excelling in the mental aspect of the game.
“He’s a really bright guy,” Pagano said. “Again, 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 the headlights, so to speak. He understands and gets football. For playing the short period of time that he has, he really understands it.”
One thing that might stand out initially for many fans is Werner’s stance.
When he lines up tight to the line of scrimmage as a defensive end in four-man fronts, he eschews the three-point stance favored by many NFL pass rushers in favor of a four-point stance with both hands in the ground.
It’s a technique Werner said helps him to stay low when he comes off the ball, and it makes him feel comfortable. It also makes the German native resemble Miami Dolphins all-pro pass rusher Cameron Wake, who has used a similar four-point stance to terrorize quarterbacks with 43 sacks in four NFL seasons.
Werner said he’ll continue to employ the unique stance as long as the coaching staff is OK with it.
“Honestly, I’m just going to listen to coaches,” he said, summing up his expectations for the season. “They tell me what to do, and I’ve just got to do it.”
Werner likely will compete with free agent signee Erik Walden at the outside linebacker spot opposite Robert Mathis that was manned last season by Dwight Freeney.
The spectre of battling for playing time, or replacing a man who holds the franchise record for sacks, doesn’t weigh heavily on the good-natured 24th overall pick.
“I’ve just got to accept my role, my rookie role, and try and do my best,” Werner said.
He admitted to getting lost in his first day at the team’s practice facility on Thursday — “Everything is white and has the same hallways” — and there will be an adjustment period on the field as well.
Werner played primarily as a 4-3 defensive end at Florida State and will spend much of his time standing up as an outside linebacker with the Colts. He said he likes his new role, however, and he showed the explosive first step Indianapolis coaches were expecting to see.
The Colts also were expecting to see some of his enthusiasm and childlike love for the game.
On his first official day of work, the rookie didn’t disappoint.
“It was good, like this is your job and when you can do this all day and just focus on it, it’s amazing,” Werner said. “I was looking forward to this for awhile, and I feel like this is the best job ever.”