INDIANAPOLIS – The gravitational pull is undeniable.
There were roughly 75 other players on the practice field under a bright sun Friday afternoon as the Indianapolis Colts clicked off their latest organized team activities (OTAs) work, but your eyes kept being pulled in the direction of the rookie quarterback.
That would be Anthony Richardson. No. 5.
He went through positional drills and a 7-on-7 session with Gardner Minshew II and Sam Ehlinger. That included dealing with being popped with padded poles while working on his footwork and looking for a receiver.
There’s a method to the padded obstructions.
“It’s really trying to create that pocket, you know what I mean? For the quarterback especially,’’ Steichen explained. “Feeling like there’s a little rush coming at you so you’ve got bodies in front of you.
“It’s not just a clear picture all the time because obviously when you’re playing 11-on-11 you’re going to have bodies in front of you. We’re just trying to create that atmosphere for the quarterback.’’
Unlike one OTA practice that was open to the media during which Minshew and Richardson split first-team reps, Minshew handled those Friday.
Nothing to it, Steichen insisted.
“Just the way the reps were broke up,’’ he said. “Really pleased with where both of those guys are right now.’’
Friday’s work concluded with two-minute, end-of-the-half drives.
Minshew ran the first unit and started things with completions to wideout Kody Case and tight end Kylen Granson. After two incompletions, Matt Gay stepped in and converted what appeared to a 50-yard field goal.
Richardson took over and hit his first four passes – two each to wideouts Ethan Fernea and and Malik Turner. After a completion to running back Jake Funk and two incompletions – one an overthrow to Turner in the end zone – backup kicker Lucas Havrisik pulled a field-goal attempt wide left.
Every rep Richardson and the entire team gets is critical. That’s especially true in situational sessions.
“There’s so much stuff that goes into the two-minute operation,’’ Steichen said. “The details, the framing of it, the situation that goes on, the clock management.
“It’s big. It’s big for players, it’s big for coaches to go through those reps because a lot of these games in the NFL as we know will come down to two-minute, end-of-half, end-of-game.’’
Bowling for chemistry
Steichen realizes the importance of players bonding whenever possible. That included taking them bowling Thursday.
He described it as “just a team-building (event) to break up OTAs, get those guys together, build that comradery.
“We’re trying to build that chemistry throughout the team. We’ve got new coaches, some new players. I always say this to the guys, ‘When you are connected, you are committed.’ When you know those guys and you are really close to them, you are going to go a little bit harder for them. Just to do that off the field stuff, not just so much in the building, but doing barbeques and bowling or whatever it may be – to get those guys connected, players and coaches, it’s huge.”
Safety Julian Blackmon understood the value, and embraced the opportunity.
“We all felt like little kids when coach was like, ‘Hey, we’re going bowling today,’’’ he said. “Those are the type of things that are really good for team comradery.’’
When Richardson made his official visit with the Colts prior to the draft, Steichen took him bowling. And beat him.
“We have fun competition when he came on his draft visit,’’ he said.
Did Steichen go 2-0 versus his rookie QB?
“I don’t think I saw his score actually,’’ he said. “There were so many guys. I was on the far end and he was on the other end.’’
Offensive and defensive players were mixed on teams to enhance the relationship building.
Richardson, Steichen said, is “a good bowler. There’s a few good bowlers.’’
“Probably coach Cato June,’’ Blackmon said with a laugh. “Honestly, Cato June was doing crazy yesterday. Blake Freeland as a rookie, he did really good, too.’’
Several players brought their own bowling ball, including June and Gay.
“That’s crazy,’’ Blackmon said. “Coach Cato brought out his towel, was shining his ball. That was nuts.
“It blew my mind, but he was throwing strikes.’’
Linebacker Shaquille Leonard (back) and running back Jonathan Taylor (ankle) were among several players held out of Friday’s work.
Steichen said wideout Michael Pittman Jr. is dealing with a hip injury (“Nothing crazy’’), rooking cornerback Darius Rush has a hamstring issue and rookie tight end Will Mallory a foot injury that occurred during rookie minicamp. Mallory is wearing a protective boot on his right foot.
Tight ends Jelani Woods (hamstring) and Drew Ogletree (knee) were out, as was rookie wideout Josh Downs (knee).
Sanchez on the mend
Rigoberto Sanchez was one of several players watching practice, but the veteran punter sounded optimistic as he continues his rehab after tearing his right Achilles tendon while running sprints during training camp last summer.
“I feel really good,’’ Sanchez said. “We’re just kind of going day-by-day, but I think we’re in a good spot right now. I’m really optimistic and really grateful for everybody that was in my corner through this process.
“I’m just excited to be here and I can’t wait for the season.’’
Sanchez wouldn’t project his availability for the start of training camp, but his rehab had progressed to the point he’s punting.
“I’m starting to feel like Rigo again,’’ he said with a smile.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.