The fans were packed so tight for Wednesday night’s Colts practice at Macholtz Stadium, several spilled over into the bleachers at neighboring Don Brandon Field.
Anderson University officials estimated the crowd at 10,000 fans, pushing the camp total above the 50,000 mark and setting a new standard for this year’s practices.
Fans were treated to a nearly two-hour session in full pads.
Indianapolis worked on several game situations, including goal-line drills and the “four-minute” offense — drives designed to protect a lead and run out the clock at the end of a half or game.
Among the players making the biggest impact — literally — was safety Melvin Bullitt. His impressive tackle of rookie running back Chad Spann in goal-line drills was the highlight-reel hit of camp so far, and it drew an audible response from the massive crowd.
Defensive end John Chick also stood out, repeatedly putting pressure on the quarterbacks during 11-on-11 drills.
Adam Vinatieri got the crowd’s attention early with a 60-yard field goal at the outset of practice.
But the biggest cheers again went to injured quarterback Peyton Manning, who was the first player on the field and signed autographs for fans behind the home sideline for more than 35 minutes prior to the workout’s start.
Curtis Painter, who is expected to start Saturday’s preseason opener at St. Louis, has repeatedly drawn praise throughout camp. But head coach Jim Caldwell admitted after Wednesday’s morning session that there’s no substitute for Manning when it comes to tempo.
“I think that getting accustomed to him, obviously, in terms of the speed in which he does things, obviously, there’s only one Peyton Manning,” Caldwell said. “Nobody else can do what he does, but I think they’re (the offensive linemen) still developing, still getting a sense of the system. They’re learning it, and I think they’re doing quite well at this point.”
Caldwell has been just as impressed by the progress of his team as a whole.
For the most part, the Colts have avoided serious injuries at AU. However, a recent rash of banged up wide receivers did force a roster move Wednesday.
With Kole Heckendorf being waived after his injury on the final play of Saturday’s mock game, and youngsters Joe Horn and Chris Brooks sitting out with nagging injuries, Indianapolis added rookie Marshall Williams of Wake Forest to its wide receiver corps.
The team will have two more practices before departing for St. Louis.
The Colts are scheduled to return to the field today at 2 p.m., and they will practice at 8:30 a.m. Friday.
Caldwell said his team is slowly but surely rounding into shape.
“Yeah, it’s moving along,” he said Wednesday morning. “I’ve been talking to the team about six inches at a time, and they’ve been just kind of moving forward, making good progress. It’s been good.”
—George Bremer is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin. Photo credit: Don Knight. Story republished with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2010, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the seventh consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.