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July 27, 2011

            INDIANAPOLISLike every other NFL team, the Indianapolis Colts are one day into the new labor agreement.  That means the team is one day closer to reporting to training camp at Anderson University in Anderson, Indiana.

            As such, it means business is going at a brisk pace at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center as operations are full speed ahead.

            Players were able to report to the club’s training facility by 10 a.m. Tuesday.  They could report for physicals and for voluntary strength and conditioning workouts.  Colts coaches were back putting finishing touches on the training camp schedule. 

Vice President and General Manager Chris Polian and his staff are addressing the matters of restricted and unrestricted veteran free agents, negotiations with undrafted rookie free agents, eyeballing the returnees to the facility and monitoring every imaginable task that was kept on hold until the new labor agreement was finalized yesterday.

            Polian, a 14-year veteran of the club’s football operations, is a meticulous planner with vast organizational skills and long-range vision.  Still, the rushed timeline presents a unique situation.

            “It’s organized chaos.  We’ve had the general parameters of what we wanted to get done, but you weren’t able to address anything with agents in the interim, so you didn’t know what their thoughts were,” said Polian.  “Obviously, you didn’t know what the cap was until last week, and we’re still continuing to get interpretations on signings, on calendars, eligibility rules, all those things.  We’ve had a little bit more movement maybe than expected in terms of rules and what exactly is going on that maybe we would have expected a few months ago.  It is where we’re at, and we’ll just continue to deal with it the best we can and move forward.”

            As the club wades through the process of an unnatural calendar in terms of possible signings and technical issues with the start of the league year, Polian was able to shed light on the mindset of dealing with the team’s veteran free agents.

            “We are talking to some of our own guys.  We will not have the ability to retain all our free agents,” said Polian.  “We’ll try to retain as many as we can.  I would not expect that to be 100 percent across the board.  Hopefully, what we’re going through is a once-in-career situation.  Our focus has always been (on) our own.  That’s what we’re working toward today and the next couple days.”

            Polian did provide a list of the club’s unrestricted free agents:  running back Joseph Addai, defensive back Melvin Bullitt, defensive end Keyunta Dawson, defensive back Aaron Francisco, linebacker Tyjuan Hagler, defensive back Ken Hamlin, defensive tackle Antonio Johnson, offensive tackle Charlie Johnson, defensive tackle Dan Muir, running back Dominic Rhodes, linebacker Clint Session and kicker Adam Vinatieri.  He did indicate the club did not exercise restricted tenders on running back Mike Hart, defensive back Mike Richardson, tight end Gijon Robinson, tight end Tom Santi and defensive back Jamie Silva.

            This year teams will not have as much of a chance to plug in veteran free agents from other teams because deals cannot happen until the final days before training camps start.  Polian did not mention that as any sort of factor in the club’s approach towards its own players. 

            “My guess is that would go club-by-club and what exactly your situation is cap-wise, what exactly your operating philosophy is, your coaching philosophy.  Where we’re at, it’s kind of as it has been in the past.  We value our players.  If we have an opportunity, we’d certainly like to keep as many of our players as possible.”         

Polian was not able to address specifically at this point the addition of rookie free agents.

Any agreements at the moment are not official.  Additionally, there is a financial limit this year with signing bonuses in attracting undrafted free agents.  Polian noted the new financial limit for this year’s pool.

            “Opportunity (in the undrafted free agent pool) is important there,” he said.  “In the past, you’ve been able to match opportunity with cash, which always makes it a little bit better.  It wasn’t an issue, and it’s just different in terms of we’re still trying to manage that cash pool and making sure we’re in compliance with that.  In the past, we may have had a chance to be a little bit more aggressive across the board.  This kind of reigns it in a little bit.  Particularly this year talking to agents and players, they were really focused on opportunity with a little bit of a shorter window for that player to get a chance to get to prove himself to a club.”

The additions of these undrafted players annually have been a boon for Indianapolis.  The Colts maintain an exemplary reputation among NFL teams for allowing undrafted players a very distinct chance to make the roster.  Stalwarts such as linebacker Gary Brackett, Bullitt, Rhodes, long-snapper Justin Snow, wide receiver Blair White and others have provided outstanding contributions for the club for many years.  Vinatieri has been the club’s kicker for five years, and he entered the league as well as an undrafted player.  Counting Brackett, Bullitt and Vinatieri, three of the club’s four team captains for the past two years have been undrafted players.    

Thumbnail information of unrestricted free agents

RB-Joseph Addai – started seven of eight games in 2010 and was 116-495, 4 TDs rushing…has

started 49 of 66 appearances over five seasons and has 4,020 yards and 38 TDs rushing…is 176- 1,355, 9 TDs receiving.

DB-Melvin Bullitt – started three of four games in 2010 prior to shoulder injury early in season…has started 24 of 48 games over four seasons…has 178 career tackles and six interceptions, with 13 stops and one interception coming in 2010. 

DE-Keyunta Dawson – 16-game participant in 2010 who has started 20 of 58 appearances through four seasons…had 27 tackles in 2010 and has 167 for career, along with five FR and one FF.

DB-Aaron Francisco – started 12 games in 2010 after not being with club to open season…had 56 tackles and two interceptions…also started playoff game 1/8 vs. NYJ…has completed six seasons.

LB-Tyjuan Hagler – appeared in 13 games in 2010, starting two, after not being with club to open season…had 54 tackles, one interception and 41t KOR vs. Jacksonville 12/19 to help seal win…has completed five seasons.

DB-Ken Hamlin – late-season addition who saw action in last two games and playoff contest…had nine total appearances in 2010 with Colts and Baltimore…has completed eight seasons.

DT-Antonio Johnson – started two of 14 games in 2010 and has opened 21 of 37 outings in three years since joining club…had 26 stops and one FR in 2010 and bolstered interior of line.

OT-Charlie Johnson – started 15 games in 2010 and has opened 10+ games in four of five seasons…played at LT in 2010 and has started 36 of 38 career appearances at the position…has played in at least 12 games in every pro season.

DT-Dan Muir – opened 14 games in 2010 and has opened 24 of 36 with Colts in three years after three games with Green Bay in 2007…had 38 stops and opened playoff game 1/8 vs. NYJ.

RB-Dominic Rhodes – appeared in final three games…was 37-172 rushing to provide team with late-season burst…has played nine seasons and has almost 3,000 rushing yards with club.

LB-Clint Session – started five games early in season before being inactive rest of the way…has 264 tackles, four interceptions and five FF in four seasons.

K-Adam Vinatieri – was 26-28 FGs and 51-51 PATs in 2010 for 129 points…was 14th 100+-seasonal point total of 15-year career…FG pct. of .929 was 2nd-best of career…was 9-10 FGs from 40+ yards.