By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
The tents that lined the practice fields at Anderson University have been dismantled.
The golf carts that carried players across the campus have been loaded up and trucked away.
Time is running short on the 2011 training camp, and the Indianapolis Colts are preparing for their exit.
The final practice takes place today at 9:30 a.m., and it can produce some bittersweet moments.
But defensive end Dwight Freeney said Wednesday it’s time for the team to go.
“We love it here, but you love to get to 7001 W. 56th Street a little bit better,” Freeney said, referring to the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center where the team trains in Indianapolis. “But I think we had a good camp. It’s going to be a great year.”
As a 10-year veteran, Freeney didn’t face the same challenges many of his younger teammates did.
Rookies and second-year players lost valuable preparation time during the 136-day lockout. But Freeney has been impressed with the way those players have responded during camp.
“It’s kind of a disadvantage for the young kids because they didn’t have the spring, May, or June (to get ready),” he said. “They didn’t have any of that. So they pretty much had to get thrown in the deep end, and now they are really picking it up.”
Freeney’s also been impressed with the work the front office did to add pieces to the defensive line.
Free agents Jamaal Anderson, Tommie Harris and Tyler Brayton each have been acquired since training camp began Aug. 1. Each are former first-round picks who bring unique and specific skill sets into the huddle.
Anderson and Brayton are known as speed rushers who also have the size and strength to play on the interior when needed. Harris is a three-time Pro Bowler who meets the requirements of a prototypical tackle in Indianapolis’ version of the Tampa 2 defense — size, speed and explosiveness.
The Colts also added defensive tackle Drake Nevis out of LSU in the third round of April’s draft, and they’re hoping to see improvement from last year’s first-round pick, Jerry Hughes.
Throw in returning veterans such as tackles Antonio Johnson and Eric Foster and three-time Pro Bowl end Robert Mathis, and it’s easy to see where Freeney’s excitement is coming from.
“Obviously, we have some more depth now at that position,” he said. “I think we’re gelling together pretty well as a defensive line.”
Now the six-time Pro Bowler just has to get back out on the field.
He didn’t play in Saturday’s preseason opener at St. Louis, but he’s hopeful he’ll see action Friday against the Washington Redskins.
“I might,” he said. “I don’t know. I think I will, but we’ll see.”
The Colts’ 33-10 loss to the Rams marked their seventh straight preseason defeat. Since its last .500 preseason in 2004, the team is just 4-23 in exhibition games.
Freeney said Indianapolis isn’t happy with that record, but things seem to have a way of working out when the games begin to count. The Colts can set an NFL record with 10 consecutive playoff appearances this year.
“You never want to go out there and lose,” Freeney said. “History has shown we haven’t won a lot of (preseason) games, but we’ve played pretty good in the regular season.”