ANDERSON, Ind. — The football seemed to hang in the air for an eternity.
Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey seemingly had beaten cornerback Greg Toler on the route, but now the defender was gaining ground quickly.
As the nose of the ball turned toward the ground and its flight began to descend, Toler erased his deficit all together. At the last moment, he reached his hand between Heyward-Bey's arms and knocked the pass away.
It was a perfect example of the competition that raged throughout Sunday afternoon's Indianapolis Colts training camp practice at Anderson University. And it was quarterback Andrew Luck's best chance at connecting on a true deep pass all day.
But, on this play, it wasn't meant to be.
Heyward-Bey's mission over the course of the next three weeks is to make sure Luck believes he will come down with that pass more often than not.
"You got to make plays out there," the receiver commonly known by his intials as DHB said after the morning walkthrough. "When he throws it up there, you got to come down with the ball. That's what a quarterback looks for, and that's what I'm going to do."
Veteran Donnie Avery revived his career last season lining up opposite of Reggie Wayne and catching passes from Luck. In his fourth NFL season, he set career highs in receptions (60) and yards (781) and had the best per-catch average (13 yards) of any year in which he had more than three catches.
Heyward-Bey, who was drafted seventh overall by the Oakland Raiders in 2009, is hoping for similar results this season.
DHB played with a revolving cast of quarterbacks, head coaches and offensive coordinators during four mostly frustrating seasons in Oakland. He seemed to have a breakout campaign with 64 catches for 975 yards and four scores in 2011, but he regressed last season with 41 receptions and 606 yards.