INDIANAPOLIS -- Ahmad Bradshaw focused on his new Colts teammates' footwork as if he was watching a diamond cutter shape the world's largest gem. That the newly signed running back did it while wearing a gray walking boot on his surgically repaired right foot only elevated his concentration.
“I feel great,” he said. “I'm ready to go.”
Not so fast, Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano said. The walking boot was his idea.
“We need to error on the side of caution,” Pagano said. “Protect him from himself.”
The 5-10, 214-pound Bradshaw doesn't look like he needs much protection. He's a densely muscled athlete the Colts white-and-blue uniform couldn't disguise during Wednesday evening's public practice at Lucas Oil Stadium. Still, he was left watching the other running backs run drills.
Pagano wants to make sure Bradshaw is healthy this season. A guy who rushed for 4,232 yards and 32 touchdowns for the New York Giants could make an big impact on an offense that relied too much on then-rookie quarterback Andrew Luck last season. He signed a one-year deal on Tuesday, five months after his surgery.
“This is a blessing for me,” Bradshaw said. “The Colts are an organization that cares. This is the right fit for me.”
This week's mini-camp, which wraps up today, is not the situation for Bradshaw to test his health.
“He wants to go, but he's not ready,” Pagano said. “We've got one practice left. It wouldn't make any sense to have him out there and re-injure that foot and miss half the season.”
Still, even an inactive Bradshaw left an impression.
“He's unbelievable,” Pagano said. “He's asking questions. He's a pro's pro. As we went through all the drills, he's standing right there. When you see a guy doing that and not off on the side doing whatever, you know he was into it. When he gets back, after taking all the mental reps, he'll be ready. He won't miss a beat.”
The offense didn't miss many beats in front of 10,000 fans on Wednesday, especially with Luck connecting with veteran receivers Reggie Wayne and Griff Whalen, plus tight end Coby Fleener, for long touchdowns.
“Andrew did a great job,” Pagano said. “He made all the plays we know he can make. He's running the offense. He's on track to have another great season.”
New backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, plus last year's backup, former Norwell standout Chandler Harnish, also got in plenty of work.
“It's a bunch of guys playing well,” Luck said. “Everybody knows what Reggie can do. We've got guys fighting for spots, fighting to show the coaches what they can do. It was nice to see everybody going 100 percent.”
Veteran linebacker Robert Mathis was impressed.
“It's a high-power offense. We can't let them make us look too bad out there. I like what I see.”
The defense is without sack-specialist Dwight Freeney, who wasn't resigned and is now with the San Diego Chargers. Still, Mathis said, the potential is there.
“The sky is the limit for this defense. We're clicking at 80 percent right now.
“We have a lot of playmakers on our team. It carries over to all phases. We feel real good about our chances.”
After this week the Colts won't get together until next month's training camp.
“That's the way it is in the NFL,” Luck said. “We have to make sure we find ways to combat that. We'll work out with guys.
“I'm glad to have gone through it last year. It's a time to lean on the older guys -- How long should I take off? Do I take off? What should we do? With all the communication we have in the locker room, it works out all right.”
Work will be necessary given the Colts have 35 new players after signed free agents and drafted rookies.
“We got a lot of things done,” Pagano said. “There were a lot of big plays on both sides.
“Again I talk about the acquisitions we made in the off-season through the free agent market and then the draft. A lot of guys are doing a lot of great things. There is a lot of talent, a lot of speed. We're starting to come together as a team. I feel good about where we're at.”