New-look Colts begin offseason program

The Sports Xchange

NFL Team Report - Indianapolis Colts - INSIDE SLANT

For the first time since last month's massive roster purge, Indianapolis Colts players -- both those that are returning as well as some of the newer additions -- were available to talk about the franchise's immediate future during an open locker room session this week.

The Colts officially began offseason workouts on Monday (April 2), which gave veterans such as defensive endRobert Mathis, safety Antoine Bethea and cornerback Jerraud Powers a chance to get a head start in learning the team's new 3-4 (three down linemen and four linebackers) system.

They'll be getting help from two formerBaltimore Ravens who played for Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano last year. Defensive end Corey Redding and safety Tom Zbikowski signed with the Colts last month. A third former Ravens defender -- nose tackle Brandon McKinney -- also joined the team as well. McKinney (6-2, 350) played four years in Baltimore.

Redding and Zbikowski are both excited to be following Pagano to Indianapolis, They'll serve as on-field examples for the Colts defensive coaching staff, led by first-year coordinator Greg Manusky.

"They're soaking it up. They are literally learning right now, but it's just the tip of the iceberg. It's about learning the base (defense). Right now it's about work. It's getting into the playbook, learning the playbook, studying the playbook. It's about watching tape, watching film," Redding said.

"If the guys need Tom or I to answer some questions for them, we'll be happy to do that. If we notice something that we think will help them understand (the defense), we'll be happy to help out. It's all about knowing your responsibilities, using the proper techniques, and just going out and playing hard. It's also about going out there and having some fun. And we intend to do that."

When the offseason practices began this week, Pagano handed out T-shirts to each of the players. The Colts' new motto -- "Building A Monster" -- is prominent on the back of each shirt.

"(The motto is) about the mentality. Either get with it or say goodbye," Zbikowski said. The former Notre Dame standout added that he doesn't mind NFL observers dismissing the Colts' chances of having a winning season in 2012.

"It's the best thing. I hope they do," the hard-hitting safety said, adding that he isn't buying into the talk of Indianapolis being involved in a rebuilding mode. "I don't even know what those words (rebuilding) mean."

Neither does Mathis, who re-signed with the Colts last month. He'll be playing a new position -- outside linebacker.

"I feel like a freshman all over again," he joked. "(The new defense) is a lot more wide open than in the past. Everybody's excited and they're ready to get going. (There) will be subtle differences. I'll be dropping (back into pass coverage) a little bit more. But it's still being active and bringing the heat. It's still the same."

One thing is clear: Despite what many believe, Mathis doesn't view the 2012 season as the start of something new.

"I want to get this 'rebuild' word out of everybody's mouth," he said. "I'm here to win games and we're not going to fall short of our goal. We've been counted out already, so we've got to use it as positive motivation.

"I can't stand it (the word 'rebuilding'). I didn't come back (to Indianapolis) to lose games. I don't have rebuilding years in me."

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NFL Team Report - Indianapolis Colts - NOTES, QUOTES

--Colts exclusive-rights free agent safetyStevie Brown signed with the Giants. Brown was a backup defensive back and wound up seeing playing time on special teams for Indianapolis last season. Brown ended the year on injured reserve after suffering a leg injury.