WESTFIELD, Ind. – The unpleasant side of the NFL has begun and will intensify.
Rosters that opened training camp at 90 had to be trimmed to 85 Aug. 17, and another five-player cut to 80 must be done by 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Then the big one: active rosters must be pared to 53 by 4 p.m. Aug. 31.
That’s why the remaining portion of training camp is so vital, along with the third preseason game. The Indianapolis Colts close the preseason Friday at Detroit.
Personnel decisions must be made; hard ones. General manager Chris Ballard, coach Frank Reich and the personnel staff already are considering how to balance the roster and make certain every position is adequately stocked.
How many receivers to keep? Offensive and defensive linemen? Linebackers, cornerbacks and on and on.
It’s understandable for anxieties to rise among players looking to earn a roster spot, but Zach Pascal is quick to offer counsel.
While he’s now firmly entrenched in the receivers’ room – he won’t call himself “established’’ – it wasn’t that long ago he was one of those wannabes just looking to get his foot in the door.
“I always tell the guys, ‘Put it on film. Leave it on film so not just the Colts, but everybody, the whole league’s watching . . . especially in the preseason. Whatever it is, have fun, and just put it on the field, put it on tape.’
“You don’t want to put no bad (plays) on tape. Don’t let it stress you out, and just have confidence in yourself.’’
Again, Pascal’s is the voice of experience. The former Old Dominion standout has had to fight and scratch and simply find a way to survive in the NFL. He was signed by Washington as an undrafted rookie in 2017, cut, signed to the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad and eventually cut twice by the Titans.
The Colts claimed him June 15, 2018 and hit the jackpot.
Pascal is one of six Colts – Quenton Nelson, George Odum, Nyheim Hines, Zaire Franklin and Luke Rhodes are the others – to appear in all 48 regular-season games the last three seasons. He’s developed into one of the more dependable receivers – 112 receptions, 1,504 yards, 12 touchdowns – and is the pre-eminent blocker among the group.
The team showed its belief in Pascal in the offseason by signing him to a one-year restricted free-agent tender at $3.384 million.
“I remember everything,’’ Pascall said of his journey to the Colts. “I remember getting released in Washington, getting released in Tennessee. I got released twice in Tennessee . . . signed here first day of camp and just been grinding it out ever since.’’
He dismissed the idea he’s established.
“I don’t feel established at all,’’ Pascal said. “That’s a blessing for me. I always had this chip on my shoulder to get better. Just using that mentality every day just to grow . . . has been successful to this point.’’
Monday was one of the more positive days at training camp from an injury standpoint.
Among players returning to practice were quarterback Carson Wentz (foot), All-Pro guard Quentin Nelson (foot) and Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly (elbow).
Frank Reich made his first appearance at camp Aug. 2 after missing time with a positive COVID-19 test. That day, he announced Wentz and Nelson would require foot surgery.
Monday, he was discussing their return to work.
“That’s right,’’ he said. “We were in stretch (today), and I see these guys in stretch and a couple of other guys healthy, and I’m like, ‘It looks like we have a squad out here. I think we’re going to be all right.’’’
One player still not cleared for practice is Dayo Odeyingbo. The second-round draft pick remains on the non-football injury list and still is in rehab mode after tearing his Achilles in January. Left tackle Eric Fisher is on the physically unable to perform list as he continues his rehab from an Achilles injury.
“He’s making good progress considering where he was with Fisher,’’ Reich said. “I think everything is kind of paralleling the course. We feel very optimistic and positive about what he’s doing.
“I was just saying . . . to Chris yesterday, ‘Man, I just want to see that next step for him, too.’ I think we’re getting close, but he’s making good progress.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.