Colts hope switch to 'physical' training camp helps defense

Mike Wells: Things could be changing after this being a topic of discussion with the Indianapolis Colts in years past. Coach Chuck Pagano has shied away from tackling during training camp in the past because he wanted to avoid player injuries.

Two things happened with Pagano taking that approach: The Colts still saw their fair share of injuries despite not tackling, and their defense suffered during the season, particularly from the tackling standpoint. You can’t expect a team to tackle with discipline during games after not practicing it beforehand. That’s likely one of many reasons why the Colts have been 20th or worse in defense in four of Pagano’s five seasons as coach.

But Pagano is now open to doing things differently.

“You’re always scared to death, but at the same time if you don’t tackle, it’s hard to get good at tackling,” Pagano said. “We do, obviously, a lot of what we call 'thud.' It’s first contact, it’s wrap up, and you try to stay off the ground as much as you can and take care of each other. But we’ll continue to have discussions regarding that, and there may be some periods come training camp that we decide we want to go live here.

“Again, until you do that, you get to the preseason and usually that first or second preseason game is an eye-opener for a lot of the guys, especially the young guys until they adapt to the speed of the game.”

The closest the Colts have been to tackling was when Pagano put them through the “Oklahoma” drill during camp two years ago. That drill is when two players have a narrow lane and they go at each other with full contact.

New general manager Chris Ballard is on board to increase the aggressiveness in practice.

“This will be a physical camp for us," Ballard told Colts.com. “We’ve got a young football team and you need to spar. I think we will have a physical camp and I think you need to. It helps get your body ready. I think a lot of the problems we have is that we don’t hit enough. You’re always worried about injuries, but this is football and it’s a physical game.

“It’s much like boxing. You need to spar. Your body’s got to get prepared for the grind and the hits of the season it’s going to endure. If your body doesn’t get used to that in camp, then I think that’s when things fall off during the season.’’