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Pro Football Weekly's Eric Edholm brings you hot news and the inside scoop about the NFL.

Early Colts practice observations

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Updated Oct. 06, 2010 @ 7:27 p.m.
By Eric Edholm

ANDERSON, Ind. — Hola from sunny and toasty Anderson University, where the Colts just got finished up with their morning practice session.

The players were in helmets and shorts, doing special-teams work, individual drills, 7-on-7 stuff and then, finally, 11-on-11s to finish off the first practice.

The tempo was fast, and the practice was relatively clean.

The Colts are in remarkably good shape, health-wise, and they welcomed potential holdout candidates Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis with open arms. Despite having contract issues with the team, both players arrived (although Wayne was the last player on the field) in time and ready to go. More good news: previously unsigned first-round pick DE Jerry Hughes is here, and head coach Jim Caldwell said Hughes will be on the field this afternoon. That means he has a deal signed.

Although there wasn't a lot of note to report, I'll do my best to sum up the highlights.

Among them:

  • WR Pierre Garcon was one of the stars in practice, making a couple of highlight-reel catches. It's easy to forget about Garcon a bit with all the focus on Wayne and his contract and the battle between slot WRs Austin Collie and Anthony Gonzalez, but Garcon looks like he'll be making a very strong case start again this season. It appears that Garcon will strictly be an outside receiver — Peyton Manning at least seemed to think that was the plan for now — and though the other wideouts might be a little more versatile, it appears it will be hard to keep Garcon off the field.
  • On defense, CB Kelvin Hayden was one of the standouts. Again, most of the work this morning highlighted the receivers and DBs, but relatively speaking to the others on the field, Hayden looked great. He first beautifully broke up a pass intended for Gonzalez, closing on the ball well and avoiding any contact. Then Hayden tracked Garcon deep down the seam and leaped to break up a high, arcing pass from Manning. It was a great first practice for Hayden.
  • Gonzalez had a nice day overall. The most interesting thing he did was catch punts, the first time he has done that since ... since ... "Actually, never," Gonzalez told me. "I mean, I have been back there, but I don't know that I have returned more than one or two punts. I think I might have fair caught one (at Ohio State)." Gonzalez looked comfortable doing it and wasn't fighting the ball at all. "I like it," he said. "If anything, it helps with your hands. The ball is up there knuckling around; it's harder to catch a punt than anything else." Gonzalez said he's healthy and looking forward to the competition he's facing at wideout, which will be fierce. "My focus is just to control my game. I can't worry about anything else. It's great competition, that's for sure," he said.
  • It's early, but here was the first first-team offensive line combo the team rolled out: Charlie Johnson at left tackle, Jamey Richard at left guard, Jeff Saturday at center, Kyle DeVan at right guard and Ryan Diem at right tackle. We'll have to see if and where Adam Terry and Mike Pollak fit in. As for the first iteration, head coach Jim Caldwell told me they will be doing a lot of rotating up front. "The (53-man rosters) dictate it," he said. Most teams opt to keep seven, maybe eight, offensive linemen active on game days, which makes flexible players all the more valuable. But his answer was politically correct, too. Despite it being the first day, this fivesome does mean something.
  • DT Fili Moala, last year's second-rounder who had something of a nada rookie season, played some end today and flashed a couple times in 11-on-11s. But Moala said he's not switching positions. "It was just out of necessity," he said. "We had a couple of guys down." That would be Dwight Freeney, still nursing his pre-Super Bowl ankle injury, and Robert Mathis, who was held out of some drills today. Freeney said he's a once-a-day practice player for camp, but that the coaches tell him which practice he'll be going.
  • P Pat McAfee unleashed some real bombs in the special-teams portion, but he also uncorked a few very bad clunkers.
  • After looking a little out of his league early on, WR Dudley Guice made one of the plays of the day: a brilliant, sprawling catch along the sidelines. He managed to stay inbounds, it appeared, and the catch made the Colts fans in attendance (there were a ton) go reaching for their rosters to find out who No. 13 was.
  • Another slow starter, WR Taj Smith rallied with a few nice grabs, too.

I'll have more later on the afternoon session, probably late tonight or tomorrow morning.

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