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Pagano praises Colts rookies at minicamp

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The team emphasized the 'mental' strain of pro football

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 4:07 am

Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano looked back at three days of rookie minicamp with a sense of progress made.

There's a learning curve when it comes to rookies switching from college to the NFL, and it's a curve that feels like entering Turn One at the Indy 500 with no brakes.

“Probably the biggest thing was mentally (adjusting),” Pagano said to reporters after Sunday's final session. “These guys handled a ton of information and did a nice job with it. Athletically, you could see what these guys could do, especially the draft choices. We were real pleased with those guys and college free agents. Even the tryout guys did a nice job. I think, for the most part, the mental part of it was very good.”

The rookies spent three days at the Colts practice complex digesting the team's philosophy and approach to being a successful franchise. It's the first time the rookies have focused solely on football after splitting college time between football and academic pursuits. Obviously, there's still homework. The offensive and defensive playbooks are ample, and the rookies want to be up to speed when full training camp arrives in late July.

“I had a lot of fun out there; I learned a lot of stuff,” offensive lineman Hugh Thornton said. “That's one thing you realize, the change from college to the pros' playbook is deep. There are a lot of things that go into it. You have a lot of checks. It's been interesting. It's been fun. I'm excited to meet the veterans and go from there.”

Pagano said the team will put Thornton at right guard and let him grow. Thornton played all over the line during his college days at the University of Illinois.

Playing at one position to open his career should be a help, Pagano said.

“I know he's played a bunch of spots and can play outside, but we are going to let him settle in there and get comfortable, learn everything and then go from there,” Pagano said. “He had a good camp, did a nice job.”

Like Thornton, center Khaled Holmes pointed to the mental side as the biggest challenge of the three-day pro orientation.

“Probably the amount of information that we have installed in a short amount of time (is what stood out),” Holmes said. “It was fun to get back (on the field), and having to study really hard. That was probably the biggest change so far.”

The offensive rookies were able to get their first taste of the style, approach and demands of new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.

Running back Kerwynn Williams' reaction to the demands fit in with that Thornton and Holmes said.

“I think any NFL offense would be tough to pick up,” Williams said. “It's a big difference. The pace is a lot faster than college and they expect you to learn a lot. I think that just picking it up fast is definitely the most difficult part.”

The Colts' veterans enter their fifth week of offseason workouts with OTAs (organized team activities) beginning next week. The veteran minicamp is June 11-13, with an open practice at Lucas Oil Stadium on June 12. Training camp at Anderson University starts in late July.