While Trai Essex has the familiarity of coaches within the organization, he admitted on Wednesday that he doesn’t know a lot of his new teammates.
Running back Mewelde Moore and center A.Q. Shipley are the only two Colts that have called Essex a teammate in the past.
Essex comes over to the Colts after seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and he spent the last four of those years playing with Moore. Shipley spent the 2011 season the Steelers practice squad.
The success that Essex and Moore shared together in Pittsburgh includes a pair of Super Bowl appearances in 2008 and 2010.
Both of those seasons the Steelers went 12-4 in the regular season while capturing Super Bowl XLIII.
What Essex doesn’t know yet about his Colts teammates, he does know a lot about the state he is once again calling home. He went to Fort Wayne Harding High School and won a state championship in basketball in 2002.
Essex started his final 37 games at Northwestern University before being chosen by the Steelers in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft.
There weren’t many ways to turn in the Colts locker room in trying to find someone who is familiar with Essex from a playing standpoint but Moore offered some strong words when talking about a man he has called a teammate for now the last five seasons.
“We are getting a guy who can play three positions,” Moore said of Essex “A guy who’s smart, physical, a strong individual and a great teammate. You’ll love to be around him and just everything he brings to the table is definitely going to help us win ball games.”
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Mewelde Moore, Trai Essex
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Three months ago, the Indianapolis Colts entered Lucas Oil Stadium for an open practice to fans.
For a majority of the coaching staff and players, it was the first time to experience playing in the Colts stadium playing in front of a crowd (albeit a smaller one than will be there Sunday).
Following that practice, head coach Chuck Pagano addressed the importance of protecting Lucas Oil Stadium.
“We plan on making this our home turf,” Pagano said. “Nobody comes in here and dominates this team. We will play great football here and this is our house.”
The message was direct and to the point and the Colts will get the first of eight chances to carry out that message this Sunday when the Minnesota Vikings come to Indianapolis for the 2012 home opener.
The Vikings game will also be the first home opener Pagano will experience as a head coach.
Not much has changed Pagano’s opinion on a home field advantage since that message he gave on June 13th and he is ready to finally coach in that environment on Sunday.
“We’ve got bar none the greatest fans in the entire NFL and we’ll count on them being our 12th man if you will. What we got to do is we’ve got to come out and start fast,” Pagano said.
“If we come out and start like we did in our first preseason opener against St. Louis and we get the crowd into it and get the fans to it, then obviously we are going to feed off their energy.
Quarterback Andrew Luck helped lead a pair of victories this preseason at home for the Colts and even in his short time in Indianapolis he has been very impressed with the intelligence of the fans.
“Very knowledgeable fan base,” Luck said. “Even walking around it’s interesting hearing when people come up to you and say a couple of words, it’s ‘wow you know a lot about football, maybe too much about football (laughing) I can’t answer that question.’ In the preseason games, it’s been fun to see how in tune the fans are, to the offense and defense, different situations.”
Defender Cory Redding doesn’t want to hear any of the silence that Luck will hopefully experience on Sunday when his unit goes to work.
The Colts mark the fourth franchise Redding has played for in his 10-year NFL career and he summed it up pretty well when talking about the need to create a home field advantage.
“You don’t want nobody to come to your house, kick their shoes off and put their feet on your coffee table, read your newspaper, sleep in your own bed, you know what I mean?” Redding said. “You don’t want that stuff to come to your house and do these things that you normally do. That’s what (Lucas Oil Stadium) needs to be for us.”
“That’s our home turf. We have to protect home. We have to win at home. We were very successful in the preseason, and we have to carry those things over. The crowd was into it. We have to go out there and feed off that energy and make plays.”
Tags: Andrew Luck, chuck pagano, cory redding
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For as many players the Colts had seeing their first NFL regular season action on Sunday, the performance level was perhaps better than was expected. While high-profile rookies like Brandon Weeeden, Ryan Tannehill and Justin Blackmon were struggling in their NFL debuts, the Colts’ trio of Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener and Jerrell Freeman each had fairly auspicious beginnings to their NFL careers. None of the three, however, could stomach the season-opening loss despite good individual performances.
Andrew Luck threw for over 300 yards Sunday and completed his first NFL touchdown pass, but his mind wasn’t on those initial career milestones. Luck was disappointed in his role that contributed to five Colts’ turnovers. Luck wouldn’t even absolve himself of the interception thrown when he was sure the Bears had jumped offsides giving him a free play.
“I did think it was a free play, but it doesn’t excuse a bad ball. We’ll move on from it and hopefully get better.”
Luck isn’t about to panic however. He realizes there’s a lot of football left to be played this season.
“I want to try and view the film as a learning experience. Be critical of yourself and not wallow in the ‘Oh we lost, this is terrible, woe is me.’ I think a lot of plays out there that you wish you could have done differently. Some throws, some interception throws that I wish I could take back. I think we had some opportunities to maybe flip the script and get ahead early but didn’t take advantage of those.”
Luck’s fellow rookie and former teammate at Stanford, Coby Fleener, also had a nice debut. After the game he wasn’t wanting to talk about his six catches for 82 yards. For Fleener, the fact that his team lost overshadowed any individual performance.
“We lost the game. I think that’s the big story line and I think we’ll try to build off what we can.”
Linebacker Jerrell Freeman had arguably the best debut performance. His interception return for a touchdown gave the Colts and early 7-0 lead. He recorded an additional five solo tackles, but like his peers, wasn’t focused on getting off to a good start personally.
“I’m not into individual accolades. That’s not the type of person I am. I could care less right now. Hopefully I’ll do what I can to do to help this team win football games.”
Colts fans may be disappointed in Sunday’s loss, but not more than the players they’re cheering on. And from the sound of those who are leading this young team, they won’t be satisfied until they get on the winning side of the ledger this week against Minnesota.
Chuck Chapman is entering his second season as the editor and lead writer for Colts 101. He also covered the Cincinnati Bengals for the Sports Media 101. Chuck and his family are originally from Ohio, but have settled in Central Indiana and become big Colts fans. You can read Chuck’s other writing about the Colts at www.colts101.com.
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Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier was only apart of the Colts coaching staff for two seasons but his impact couldn’t be measured in solely the amount of time he was in Indianapolis.
Frazier joined the Colts staff in 2005 as defensive backs coach and also held the title as a special assistant to head coach Tony Dungy.
The improvements the Colts secondary saw in just one year under Frazier was immense. In 2005, the Colts were ranked No. 15 in pass defense around the league. That number improved all the way to No. 2 the following season as the Colts captured Super Bowl XLI.
“Those were great times,” Frazier said. “I have so many good memories from my time there in Indianapolis. We were rolling pretty good there and to come away with a Super Bowl ring I will never forget that time with Tony, the rest of the staff, the players.”
Frazier’s relationship with Dungy is something that is still strong today and he credits him for helping him become a head coach in the NFL.
In 2007, Frazier joined the Vikings staff as defensive coordinator before becoming Minnesota’s permanent head coach following the 2010 season.
“Tony is a great friend,” Frazier said. “I learned so much from he and the rest of the staff during that time. A lot of these things I learned there in Indianapolis I’ve tried to institute here in Minnesota. That time was very, very important in my development as a coach.”
Only three players remain on the Colts defense from Frazier’s time in Indianapolis.
Outside linebackers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis were in the middle of their onslaught against opposing quarterbacks recording a combined 37.5 sacks over the two years Frazier coached with the Colts.
With Freeney’s status for Sunday’s game with the Vikings up in the air, Frazier knows first hand what having him on the field means for the Colts defense.
“Dwight is one of those game wreckers,” Frazier said. “He has been for a long, long time. I witnessed him just destroying offenses’ game plans and people just changing their game plans because of Dwight, much like they do here with Jared (Allen).”
“So to do not have Dwight on the field, it would definitely change how offenses approach you and it would change how we would approach the Colts if he didn’t play.”
Mathis was just beginning his third NFL season when Frazier joined the Colts.
The 2006 season was Mathis first as a full-time starter and his first Pro Bowl didn’t come until 2008. It’s that recognition that Frazier believes is something Mathis has never fully received.
“He’s a tremendous talent,” Frazier said of Mathis. “He’s a guy who is sometimes in the shadow of Dwight but opposing teams know they have to have a plan for Robert and they’ve known for a number of year.”
“I admired his talents when I was there. He’s not a guy who looks and seeks the headlines but opposing teams know you better have a plan for Robert Mathis when you line up and play the Colts.”
Following the Colts Super Bowl XLI win, Frazier sat down with Dungy and made a decision that would influence the rest of his coaching career.
A chance to become a coordinator in the NFL would seem like a logical choice for someone in Frazier’s position, but the decision to leave so many friends behind didn’t make the process any easier.
“It was really hard to leave,” Frazier said. “(Former general manager) Bill Polian, the whole organization, Mr. Irsay, everyone was so good to me during the time I was there from top to bottom. They treated me like I was apart of the family and I’ll never forget it and I’ll always be thankful.”
Tags: Bill Polian, Dwight Freeney, Jim Irsay, Leslie Frazier, robert mathis, Tony Dungy
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