Colts open offseason work, and there’s work to be done

INDIANAPOLIS — A necessary rebuild that began with Shane Steichen takes its first official step Monday.

That’s when Steichen steps in front of the fractured franchise he inherited in mid-February for the first time and provides his message to his team.

The Indianapolis Colts clearly are broken. They’re coming off a season that included the firing of their head coach (Frank Reich), the hiring of an ESPN analyst as interim coach (Jeff Saturday), the largest collapse in NFL history, another meltdown in Dallas that was nearly as atrocious, the first seven-game losing streak to close a season since 1953 and a 4-12-1 record.

Monday is a turn-the-page day. Players return to the Farm Bureau Insurance Football Center for the start of the team’s offseason workouts and hope abounds. The Colts are starting a week early because of their new head coach.

“Certainly excited about the season,’’ Jim Irsay said last month at the owners’ meetings in Phoenix.

The highest anticipation centers on whether the April 27 draft will address the most glaring hole in general manager Chris Ballard’s roster. Will the No. 4 overall pick deliver the quarterback of the future that’s required to return the Colts to prominence? They’ve missed the playoffs in six of the past eight seasons, the franchise’s worst eight-year stretch in a quarter century.

But we’re not talking about the draft.

Monday is about Steichen and his revamped coaching staff getting their hands on the players who must serve as the catalysts for whatever’s to come.

Some are coming off injuries/surgeries: Shaq Leonard (back), Jonathan Taylor (ankle), Rigoberto Sanchez (Achilles), Tyquan Lewis (patellar), and Drew Ogletree (knee).

Some are coming off subpar seasons; we’ll just list the entire offensive line for the sake of brevity.

Some are new to the building: Matt Gay, Samson Ebukam, Gardner Minshew II, Isaiah McKenzie, and Taven Bryan.

Irsay’s eternal optimism – he remains driven to do whatever it takes to enable the Colts to win multiple Lombardi trophies – is rooted in his belief Ballard will find the young quarterback that’s been missing since Andrew Luck’s retirement prior to the 2019 season.

“We’re looking for the future guy and we want the guy that can be there for the next 10 years,’’ Irsay said. “It seems like there’s going to be a great prospect there and we just have to make sure.”

His optimism also is teeming because he believes Steichen is the right guy to mold that young prospect and lead the franchise out of the darkness.

Steichen, 37, is the Colts’ youngest head coach since Don Shula, who was 33 when he took over in 1963.

“It’s crazy for me how young he is,’’ Irsay said. “It’s crazy to me because I was a general manager at 24 and an owner at 35. Everybody was always older, older, older.’’

This is a reminder of how the three-tiered offseason program is structured. The 10-week program concludes with a mandatory minicamp on June 13-15.

*Phase 1: Two weeks of activities limited to meetings, strength and conditioning and rehab.

*Phase 2: Four weeks of on-field workouts which are limited to individual and positional drills, as well as what the league considers “perfect-play drills.’’ All on-field work must be conducted at a walk-through pace and only offense vs. offense and defense vs. defense sessions are allowed. Live team offense vs. team defense drills are not permitted. The extra week allowed involves a voluntary minicamp April 24-26, which is followed by a May 5-6 rookie minicamp.

*Phase 3: The final four weeks is when things crank up. It includes 10 days of organized team activities (OTAs) followed by the June 13-15 mandatory minicamp. No live contact is allowed, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills are permitted,

*Notable dates: Voluntary minicamp April 24-26; rookie minicamp May 5-6; OTAs May 23-25, May 31-June 2, June 5-8; mandatory minicamp June 13-15.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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