Colts liking Chuck Pagano's vibe

June, 13, 2012
6/13/12
10:08
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PaganoAP Photo/David DrapkinCoach Chuck Pagano says the new Colts staff is "just trying to build something special here."
INDIANAPOLIS -- During the Peyton Manning era, the Indianapolis Colts were built around precision.

At this stage of the season, the precision was perceived in how everyone was at the right spot -- not just in running routes, but in moving from drill to drill and practice period to practice period.

Things looked the same to me Tuesday as the new-look Colts' work on “building the monster” picked up some steam as Andrew Luck arrived and the entire team was together for the first time.

From my limited view, new coach Chuck Pagano is setting a nice tone.

Veteran safety Antoine Bethea characterized things as looser -- which I take as a telling word. Manning and Bill Polian weren’t especially big on looseness. It was a disciplined, serious atmosphere, and that was typically effective for the franchise. Last year as things crumbled with Manning sidelined, the tension level was too high and it was a factor in Jim Irsay's decision to part ways with Polian.

Things are working somewhat differently now.

“It’s very lively around here, eveybody’s joking,” Bethea said. “We’ve got a job to get done, and (Pagano's) making sure we know that. But at the same time we can have fun with it. ...We’re just having a real good time learning the concepts.

“It’s a little different. It was way more business like -- not saying it’s not business like now. But it was, ‘We’re out here, we’re going to get the job done, no goofing around.’ Here we’re kind of freed up a little bit, just having a little more fun.”

Typically when a new coach brings in some guys he’s worked with before, they are expected to spread the culture the staff aims to grow.

Safety Tom Zbikowski is one of three veterans who came from Baltimore, and played under Pagano, who was a position coach and coordinator with the Ravens. Zbikowski said serving as an agent of culture change has not really been part of his role with the Colts so far.

“ I wish I could say I’m doing more, but this team is made up of real professionals,” he said. “...Chuck’s doing a good job making known what he wants accomplished and all three coordinators are doing a good job of setting the pace.

“We’re just all following Chuck’s lead.”

It’s an interesting balance to strike when you move from position coach to coordinator to head coach. Some coaches trickle their messages through their staff and deal very little with players. Others are much more interactive.

“He’s a real personable coach,” said veteran right tackle Winston Justice, who came to the Colts in a trade from Philadelphia. “He reminds me of Pete Carroll from when I was in college, he’ll talk to you and stuff. I’m not comparing him to Pete Carroll in any sense beyond that.

“But he talks to you. Andy Reid, he doesn’t talk to you. I’ve probably talked to Pagano more in these first couple weeks than I talked to Reid in seven years. That makes you want to play for him harder, basically.”

Pagano seems like a straight shooter who’s created a good and healthy atmosphere. His roster is thin at several spots and while no one wants to use the word rebuild, the Colts are absolutely rebuilding.

How quickly new schemes and new personnel jell and produce will be the big question, and when we start to get some answers we’ll have a much better read on the rookie coach.

“We are just trying to build something special here,” Pagano said. “They have won here and they have had a great run. What we are going to try to do is build something really special, and something that will stand the test of time. Something that we can look back on and say, ‘We did this for a long period of time, and it wasn’t just a quick fix type of thing.’”

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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