WESTFIELD — The Indianapolis Colts wrapped the public portion of training camp Thursday with words from a legend.
Hall of Fame head coach Tony Dungy was among more than 30 franchise alumni to take in a two-hour, physical practice against the Cleveland Browns. And the man who led Indianapolis to its lone Super Bowl title had a very specific message for this year’s team.
“I always, when I talk to a team, I try to leave them one thing to remember,” Dungy said. “And the thing I talked about today was that hard work determines what you’re gonna do. (Former Pittsburgh Steelers head) Coach (Chuck) Noll told us that when I was a rookie player, that champions do the ordinary things better than everyone else. They just work at it.
“That’s what wins championships. It’s great to get a new player. It’s great to have new plays. It’s great to have high-tech stuff and a great facility. All that’s good, but what’s gonna determine it is their hard work.”
Time will tell how well the message resonates with a team that has title aspirations of its own.
The Colts faced some adversity on a day when the pass protection fell well short of head coach Frank Reich’s standards, and Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield made the defense work on every snap.
In the long run, Indianapolis believes such tests will pay tangible dividends.
Third-year linebacker Anthony Walker has long been a fan of Dungy, and he took the former coach’s words to heart.
“I’ve read, I think, three of his books, just talking about doing the little things better than everyone else,” Walker said. “There’s no out-scheming anyone in the NFL. There’s no magic formula. You just have to go out there and do the little things better than the other team. But to hear him reiterate that message, that’s what he’s about.”
Super Bowl XLI MVP Peyton Manning also was among the visitors on the final day of camp.
He arrived in Westfield late Wednesday night and spent hours telling war stories with the offensive staff. On Thursday, Manning addressed the team during a morning meeting.
Bill Polian, the front-office architect of that championship team, also spoke with the current Colts last week.
“We had Peyton talk to the team this morning in a team meeting, and that was unbelievable. And then Tony here (after practice),” Reich said. “So in the course of a week we’ve had Bill Polian, Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy. That’s quite the trio right there. They really represent what this is all about.”
Wide receiver Reece Fountain was among the best players thoughout training camp. But his redemption story took a heart-breaking detour Thursday.
The 2018 fifth-round pick suffered a serious ankle injury while running out his assignment away from the ball on a toss-sweep play. Fountain immediately dropped to the ground in pain and was surrounded by players from both teams.
He was taken off the field strapped to a cart as Colts owner Jim Irsay whispered a few words of encouragement. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Fountain suffered a dislocated and fractured ankle.
“Obviously, Reece suffered a significant ankle injury,” Reich said. “He’s at the hospital being treated, gonna get the best care in the world. We’ll do whatever it takes to support him, and he’ll bounce back. He’ll bounce back.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Reece. He’s had a great camp. He’s worked extremely hard and looked extremely good, and so our thoughts and prayers are with Reece.”
Several skirmishes broke out throughout Thursday's practice, with the majority coming on the field featuring the Colts’ defense against the Browns’ offense.
Reich said the fights are a normal part of doing business in joint practices, and he did not believe any individual scuffle went too far.
Walker mostly agreed but said the players had to defend themselves.
“We can’t control how the other team comes out,” he said. “We have to be able to control our emotions and stuff like that. But, one thing, we won’t let someone come in our house and try to take our will, take our soul. We’re gonna fight back.
“I don’t think any team was trying to get that physical, but that’s what football does. It’s practice. There’s no live periods or nothing like that. So guys do get taken to the ground or guys do become a little bit too physical. Other side doesn’t like it. There’s gonna be some words said, punches thrown. We don’t want that. Nobody wants that. That’s not why we’re here. We’re here to get better and compete, have fun. But sometimes that happens. You don’t want it to get too far, don’t want it to escalate too much, but (you) can’t control it sometimes.”