NFL Nation: Ahmad Bradshaw

Former New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck made a little bit of a headline last week when he said on ESPN Radio in New York that the Patriots' Tom Brady would be "no question" the best quarterback in NFL history but for the Giants beating him in two Super Bowls. And with the Super Bowl (and the Patriots) returning this year to the site of the Giants' Super Bowl XLII upset of an undefeated New England team, that game is going to be revisited a lot in the next two weeks.

Tedy Bruschi, the former Patriots linebacker who's now an NFL analyst for ESPN, has no trouble remembering the game, painful though it may be for a member of that year's Patriots to recall.

"I can't think of a game in Super Bowl history with more on the line than there was that day," Bruschi said Monday in a phone interview. "This was THE SUPER BOWL, all caps. The one that would trump all the others. A chance to go 19-0, be the only team that ever did that, call ourselves the greatest team of all time? No question about it. But the better team won. They were definitely the better team."

[+] EnlargeDavid Tyree
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarThe breaks the Patriots got during a 16-0 season seemed to go the Giants' way in Super Bowl XLII.
That's something of a startling admission by a member of that Patriots team, which set NFL records on offense and rolled into the Super Bowl with an 18-0 record. That season's Giants were a 10-6 wild-card team that lost to New England in Week 17. It was a surprise to everyone that they even got to the Super Bowl. Their winning it was among the biggest upsets in sports history. But Bruschi sticks to his story.

"I definitely feel the right team won," Bruschi said. "The way we played, the way they played, they should have won. And that's just the respect I have for the NFL game. To sit here and say we were the better team, or we'd have beaten them nine out of 10 times, come on. What a slap in the face it would be for me to say that."

Bruschi can recall several moments from the game that made him think things weren't going to go the Patriots' way -- the David Tyree helmet catch, of course, but also a dropped interception by Asante Samuel, another pass that went off Brandon Meriweather's hands, an Ahmad Bradshaw fumble that Bradshaw improbably recovered, etc. The kinds of things, Bruschi said, that used to go the Patriots' way when they started winning Super Bowls. But he says it would be a mistake to lay that loss on a few bad bounces.

"They came at us with that power running game with [Brandon] Jacobs and Bradshaw and the fullback, [Madison] Hedgecock," Bruschi said. "Physical offensive line, they had a defensive line, powerful. It validates what really wins football games. We had the highest-scoring offense in the history of the NFL, and we ran into a more physical team that day and lost."

Truly believing the other team was better doesn't help Bruschi deal with the loss, though. What the Patriots lost that day went well beyond one game or even one title. They lost the chance to lay claim to the title of greatest team in NFL history. Bruschi took it so hard, he put off retirement plans.

"I couldn't finish my career with that taste in my mouth," he said. "If we had won that game, I would have retired. No doubt in my mind. But after we lost, I had to come back and play another season."

Bruschi is a Patriot for life, and he recognizes that people will say Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have a chance to go exorcise some demons in the desert in a couple of weeks. But he doesn't think that's really the case.

"I know Tom wants to go out there and right the wrong," Bruschi said. "But if they go out there and win that Super Bowl, it doesn't fix anything for me. I'll be ecstatic and I'll be proud of the organization, but the big one was lost. Nothing's going to change that."

 
Hakeem Nicks and Ahmad BradshawAP Photo/Stephen B. MortonHakeem Nicks, Ahmad Bradshaw and the Colts lead the AFC South with a 5-3 record.

The New York Giants let Ahmad Bradshaw walk after the 2012 season because they couldn't trust him to stay healthy and because they felt they had running back covered with younger, cheaper options in Andre Brown and David Wilson.

The Giants let Hakeem Nicks walk after the 2013 season because they were mystified as to why he'd performed so poorly in his contract year. They decided it was best to move on to younger, cheaper wide receiver options such as Rueben Randle and, ultimately, first-round draft pick Odell Beckham Jr.

Bradshaw and Nicks will return Monday night to the stadium in which they played home games en route to the Giants' most recent Super Bowl title. They are members of the Indianapolis Colts now, and they bring with them no ill will.

"It didn't take me long to get over it, but it just hurt me because I felt that was my family, that I was a big part of that team and that I still had a lot of football left," Bradshaw said on a conference call Wednesday, reflecting on the Giants' decision to release him two offseasons ago. "I knew it was a business. I know how this business goes. I gave everything I could to the Giants. Injury-wise, I just couldn't get out there on the field.

[+] EnlargeHakeem Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw
AP Photo/Eric GayNicks (88) earned one Super Bowl ring and Bradshaw won a pair during their time with the Giants.

"When I left, at first I didn't know why. But I kind of sat back and thought about it, and it being business, money and injuries."

The injuries followed Bradshaw to Indianapolis, where he played just three games last year and ended up needing career-threatening neck surgery. He has managed to recover from that and so far lead the 5-3 Colts with 371 rushing yards. He also has 31 receptions for 264 yards and six touchdowns. He's eager to show off in front of Giants fans on Monday Night.

"Like I said, that was a family to me at one time, and that was like home to me," Bradshaw said. "And just to be able to go back home and be around old fans of mine and play in front of old fans of mine and family and just get back and see those guys and be in that atmosphere, it makes me anxious to be ready for this game and be ready to go."

Nicks was a former first-round pick who was one of the top wide receivers in the league for a time and a critical part of the Giants' Super Bowl run in 2011. But his disappearance from the offense in 2013 was one of the great mysteries of that disappointing season. He ended without a touchdown catch despite playing in all but one game. Other than a brilliant performance in a home preseason game against the Giants, Nicks' time in Indianapolis has been a disappointment so far as well. He's tied for sixth on the team with just 18 receptions for 168 yards, though he has caught two touchdowns.

"There's only one football, and we've got a ton of skill guys and a ton of playmakers surrounding our quarterback," relentlessly upbeat Colts coach Chuck Pagano said by way of explanation. "The numbers may not look outstanding at this point, but he's come in here and done a great job and worked his tail off. He's a selfless guy, and right now he's trying to do whatever he can to help the team win."

Nicks was known around the Giants as a hard worker and a selfless player, which is part of what made 2013 so difficult to understand. Looking back, he doesn't seem to have much of an idea what happened, nor any interest in discussing it. He did say he felt better physically than he has in years, but as far as anyone around the Giants knew he was healthy last year, so that doesn't make much sense as an explanation either.

"I'm in a new situation, and I've got a chance to prove to this team what I can bring to the table," Nicks said. "I take everything from the past and I learn from it. I don't dwell on it. It's life. There's going to be ups and downs, and you just learn from it."
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier will start today against the Indianapolis Colts after missing the last four games with a sprained knee.

Shazier has been listed as probable on Pittsburgh's final injury of the week and his return should help the Steelers with tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener a prominent part of the Colts’ passing game.

The Steelers will be without one of the starters on their offensive line against the Colts, who are tied for third in the NFL with 21 sacks.

Right tackle Marcus Gilbert has been deactivated after suffering a concussion last Monday night in the Steelers’ 30-23 win over the Houston Texans. Mike Adams will make his first start of the season in place of Adams.

Joining Gilbert on the Steelers’ inactives list because of injuries are nose tackle Steve McLendon (shoulder), cornerback Ike Taylor (forearm) and safety Shamarko Thomas (hamstring).

Wide receiver Justin Brown, cornerback B.W. Webb and quarterback Landry Jones are the Steelers’ healthy scratches.

The Colts are without starting wide receiver Reggie Wayne (elbow) and Hakeem Nicks will start in his place. Running back Trent Richardson (hamstring) will play against the Steelers but the third-year man will be limited.

Ahmad Bradshaw will start in place of Richardson.

Colts vs. Steelers preview

October, 24, 2014
10/24/14
8:00
AM ET

The streaking Indianapolis Colts will try to win their sixth game in a row on Sunday when they visit the Pittsburgh Steelers. Slowing down quarterback Andrew Luck will be the Steelers' priority, and they have to find a way to minimize his impact or score enough to keep pace with the 5-2 Colts. Beating Indianapolis would give Pittsburgh a 5-3 record at the halfway point of the season as well as a signature win.

ESPN Colts reporter Mike Wells and Steelers reporter Scott Brown take a closer look at the 4:25 p.m. ET game at Heinz Field.

Brown: Mike, the Steelers’ passing game has been torched by the likes of Mike Glennon and Brian Hoyer this season. The Steelers' pass rush has been average, and they are suspect in the secondary. That is not a good formula for stopping Luck. What is the best way to contain him, if that is possible?

Wells: Blitzing Luck is the best way, but that appears to be a problem for the Steelers. Luck has done an exceptional job of spreading the ball around this season. He is not just focusing on receivers Reggie Wayne or T.Y. Hilton. Luck had back-to-back games where he completed passes to nine different receivers this season. His biggest problem, though, is interceptions: He is tied for third in the league in that category with seven. The Colts have survived Luck’s miscues so far, but they won’t be as fortunate once they get to the playoffs and face teams that can make them pay for their mistakes.

The Steelers are a tough team to figure out. One week they get blown out by Cleveland, and then they come back and use an incredible performance in the second quarter to beat Houston. What is Pittsburgh’s identity?

Brown: Mike, I can’t figure out this team quarter to quarter, much less game to game. The defense certainly isn’t the one that people are accustomed to seeing. There is no intimidation factor, no swagger, and the Steelers are really just trying to get by defensively as they retool a unit that is in transition. The Steelers have the potential to forge a personality as a dynamic offensive team, as they have the NFL’s leading receiver in Antonio Brown, the second-leading rusher in Le'Veon Bell and, of course, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers have moved the ball this season, but they have too often bogged down in the red zone. Maybe scoring three touchdowns in the last three minutes of the second quarter Monday night against the Texans will serve as a springboard for the offense. It had better put up a lot of points against the Colts if the Steelers are to beat one of the NFL’s hottest teams.

I normally don’t associate the Colts with the kind of defense they played in absolutely stifling the Bengals on Sunday. Is Indianapolis' defense underrated?

Wells: It is very underrated. I didn’t think this defense had a chance once linebacker Robert Mathis, last season’s sack leader, was lost for the season with a torn Achilles. The unit appeared to be headed for a rough season after it had only one sack over the first two games. But defensive coordinator Greg Manusky has taken a hold-nothing-back approach with his defense. With two cornerbacks who can blanket receivers, Greg Toler and Vontae Davis, Manusky is loading the box and constantly blitzing. That is why the Colts have 20 sacks and nine turnovers during their five-game winning streak. They have also held their past four opponents to 4-of-41 on third down. People might not have respected the Colts' defense before, but now teams have to take notice.

The Steelers have a history of being a good defensive team. They are 15th in the league in yards allowed a game. Are they on the decline defensively?

Brown: That is a great question. The Steelers have to hope it doesn’t get any worse defensively, or they could be in trouble. They have some promising young players to build around in rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier and rookie defensive end Stephon Tuitt. But the Steelers have serious questions at outside linebacker, especially if 2013 first-round pick Jarvis Jones doesn’t develop into a pass-rushing force. Cornerback is also an issue, a position at which the organization has not drafted well or neglected, depending on your vantage point. Cortez Allen is the Steelers’ best young cornerback, and he recently lost his starting job to Brice McCain. Allen has the physical ability to develop into a No. 1 cornerback, but the 2011 fourth-round pick has to become more consistent. It could get worse before it gets better on defense, given some of the holes that the Steelers have tried to spackle over by moves such as coaxing veteran outside linebacker James Harrison out of retirement.

The Colts seem like they have something going with Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw at running back. Richardson seems to be playing much better than he did last season. Is part of the reason that Bradshaw has eased the pressure on Richardson to carry the Colts' ground game?

Wells: Richardson might never live up to the expectations as being the No. 3 overall pick in 2012, but he is running better than he did last season, when he eventually was demoted. He is running with more confidence and making better decisions. Having Bradshaw has been a blessing for Richardson because he doesn’t have the burden of carrying the load in the backfield. Neither player has a problem sharing the work, and it helps that Bradshaw is familiar with sharing the load in the backfield. He went through it while with the New York Giants.

Brown looks like he could surpass the 1,499 receiving yards he had last season. What makes him so successful, and what type of challenges will he present to the Colts’ secondary?

Brown: I thought Brown would have a really tough time matching his production in 2013, when the fifth-year veteran set a Steelers record for receiving yards in a season. He has been even better this season and has scored five touchdowns after reaching the end zone eight times in 2013. Brown is an excellent route-runner, makes tough catches in traffic and is dazzling after the catch. The Colts will have to limit the damage Brown does after the catch, and I would imagine they will do everything they can to take him out of the game. But no team has succeeded in doing that, even though a reliable complement opposite Brown has yet to emerge.

Examining the Indianapolis Colts' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
This is the safest position on the roster for the Colts. They plan to always keep a veteran backup if Luck ever goes down with an injury.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

The Colts will have a solid running combination if -- and we’re saying if until proven wrong -- Richardson can bounce back from a poor first season in Indianapolis and Bradshaw and Ballard can stay injury-free. Havili, a fullback, gets the edge over Mario Harvey, who switched from linebacker to fullback during offseason workouts.

RECEIVERS (5)

The final receiver spot will come down to Rogers and Griff Whalen. If the Colts want to play it safe, Whalen is the guy because he’s familiar with Luck and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, but Rogers has the size and speed the team likes. There’s also the possibility of the Colts keeping six receivers.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

Allen, who missed all but one game in 2013, and Fleener have the potential to be one of the top tight end duos in the league. Doyle and Saunders are both familiar with the system after backing up Fleener in Allen’s absence last season.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

There are plenty of questions surrounding the offensive line outside of tackles Castonzo and Cherilus. The one thing general manager Ryan Grigson wanted with this group is depth. The Colts have plenty of it.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)

Like the offensive line, the Colts want depth on the defensive line so they can constantly rotate in players, so come the fourth quarter they still have fresh legs to get after the opponent. Jones was the key offseason acquisition for the Colts. Chapman showed flashes last season; now he needs to do it every snap that he’s on the field.

LINEBACKERS (10)

All eyes will be on outside linebacker as the Colts look to find a replacement for Mathis, who is suspended for the first four games of the season. Werner gets the first crack at starting in Mathis’ spot. McNary is a player for whom Grigson has high expectations. It’ll be up to defensive coordinator Greg Manusky on how he uses McNary.

DEFENSIVE BACKS (10)

It’s anybody’s guess how the secondary will perform. It’s anybody’s guess who will start alongside Landry at safety. It looked like it would be Howell for most of the offseason, but the Colts signed the veteran Adams in June. Can Toler finally remain healthy? Can Davis live up to his contract? So many questions with no answers at the moment.

SPECIALIST

This only changes if an injury occurs.

Camp preview: Indianapolis Colts

July, 17, 2014
7/17/14
10:00
AM ET
» NFC Preview: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

NFL Nation’s Mike Wells examines the three biggest issues facing the Indianapolis Colts heading into training camp.

Khaled Holmes: Colts general manager Ryan Grigson took a big gamble in the offseason by not heavily pursuing a veteran center. He signed Phil Costa, who was beaten out by a rookie in Dallas, only to have the veteran suddenly retire before ever playing a snap for the Colts. Even with Costa on the roster, the plan all along for the Colts was for Holmes to start. This is the same Khaled Holmes who managed to play a total of 12 snaps as a rookie, despite poor play by Samson Satele at the position last season. Grigson has constantly defended Holmes ever since, pointing out that the second-year player would be his starter. The goal is for Holmes to team with franchise quarterback Andrew Luck for years to come. Holmes needs to have good chemistry with Luck and control the line of the scrimmage, all while making sure the rest of the offensive linemen know the correct calls. That’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a player who is basically a rookie, especially when you think about the expectations the Colts have this season.

Safety: Similar to his decision at center, Grigson didn’t look far outside the organization to address a position of need. Veteran Antoine Bethea left Indianapolis to sign with San Francisco, and it appeared Delano Howell was the frontrunner to start alongside LaRon Landry at safety. Things seem to change in the middle of June, when the Colts signed veteran Mike Adams. Adams has started 73 games in his 10-year NFL career, but even though he says he feels like he’s 26 years old, he’s actually 33. Howell has started only four games in his career. And speaking of Landry, he didn’t exactly ease anybody’s mind about whether he’ll be able to rebound from a disappointing first season with the Colts. He didn’t attend any of the voluntary offseason workouts, then showed up at the mandatory minicamp with what was described as a soft-tissue injury. While the offseason workouts are voluntary, it would have helped Landry if he had at least attended a few of the sessions. Grigson and Colts coach Chuck Pagano didn’t criticize Landry for not showing up, but they did point out their preference of wishing he was in attendance. If anything it would have showed that Landry cared about working on chemistry with the rest of his defensive teammates. There are too many questions surrounding the safety position on a defense that was way too inconsistent last season.

Trent Richardson: The excuses are no longer available for Richardson in the Colts organization. The ready-made line of, “Richardson is still learning the offensive system,” is in the trash on the curb. Richardson, who the Colts acquired from Cleveland just days before Week 3 last season, has had an entire offseason to learn the playbook. Now he can use his natural instincts when he’s on the field, instead of constantly trying to remember the plays. The Colts clearly are trailing the Browns in the who-got-the-better-of-the-trade race. Cleveland turned the No. 26 pick into hotshot quarterback Johnny Manziel after using it to trade up to No. 22. The Colts? All Richardson gave them was 2.9 yards a carry and a demotion to the second unit last season. Richardson and the Colts have to hope this season is different. The pressure is on Richardson, because Grigson said earlier this year he would make the trade again if put in the same position. Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick in 2012, had offseason shoulder surgery and will head into training camp as the starter, with Ahmad Bradshaw ready to take some snaps from him if he struggles.

Projecting Colts starters

June, 30, 2014
6/30/14
3:30
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- A lot can happen for the Indianapolis Colts between now and Week 1 against the Denver Broncos. Injured players become completely healthy. Healthy players get injured. Projected starters get beat out by a teammate.

But that hasn't stopped fans from asking about what the Colts' depth chart will look like this season. It's July and players, coaches and front office officials are taking one last vacation before reporting for the start of training camp in Anderson, Indiana, on July 23. So for the next two days I'll take a shot at who I think the starters will be.

We'll start with the offense today. We'll do the defense on Tuesday.

Quarterback: Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck

Comment: This is self-explanatory. Go ahead and keep Luck's name there as long as he's healthy.

Running back: Trent Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Vick Ballard, Stanley Havili

Comment: As I mentioned last week when I did position battles, Richardson will be given the first shot at starting because of his talent and the last thing the Colts want to show is that their trade for him last September was a failure.

Receiver: Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Hakeem Nicks

Comments: The pressure isn't on Wayne to be the Reggie Wayne of a few years ago because he has help with Hilton and Nicks at the position, but Wayne is out to prove that he can still produce at the age 35 and after tearing his ACL.

Tight end: Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen

Comment: Allen is a better all-around tight end than Fleener, but he missed all but one game last season because of a hip injury.

Offensive line: (LT) Anthony Castonzo, (LG) Jack Mewhort, (C) Khaled Holmes, (RG) Hugh Thornton, (RT) Gosder Cherilus

Comment: The only position really up in the air at the moment is left guard. Mewhort currently has the edge because Donald Thomas didn't take part in offseason workouts and he moved ahead of Lance Louis during organized team activities (OTAs).
INDIANAPOLIS -- There was a pair of eyes constantly peeking out from the Indianapolis Colts' indoor practice facility onto the outdoor practice field during the first day of mandatory minicamp Tuesday.

Bush
Wayne
Those eyes belonged to veteran receiver Reggie Wayne.

Wayne, as expected for months, is not taking part in the team's minicamp because he's still working his way back from a torn ACL, suffered in Week 7 last season.

"He was ready to run in there right at the end of that team drill," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "He looks great. Again, we're going to have to have plenty of security around him so he doesn't sneak out in pads come training camp time and try to get in there too soon. We all know what Reggie's made of and how he's wired and what his DNA is, and so he's chomping at the bit obviously to get back out there."

So will Wayne, who is determined to prove doubters wrong about being able to return from a torn ACL at age 35, be ready for training camp at the end of July?

"I'd be shocked, I'd be shocked if he wouldn't be," Pagano said.

Wayne isn't the only Colts' player trying to return from a season-ending injury suffered last year. Running backs Vick Ballard (knee) and Ahmad Bradshaw (neck), offensive lineman Donald Thomas (quad/bicep) and tight end Dwayne Allen (hip) all had their seasons cut short.

Bradshaw and Allen are taking part in the minicamp. Ballard and Thomas are headed in the right direction with their rehab, according to Pagano.

"We're anticipating having most of those guys," Pagano said. "There may be one or two out of that group that might have to start on PUP, but our guys, Dave Hammer and the crew and our doctors are optimistic that none of those guys will have to."
INDIANAPOLIS -- The final significant days of the offseason for the Indianapolis Colts (outside of when commissioner Roger Goodell disciplines owner Jim Irsay) starts Tuesday at the team's facility when they begin the first of three days of mandatory minicamp before breaking up for the final time prior to reporting for training camp July 23.

Let's take a look at several things to pay attention to during the camp:

[+] EnlargeTrent Richardson
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsThe competition at running back, including Trent Richardson, won't be decided in this week's mandatory minicamp.
Offensive line battle: You can go ahead and put Khaled Holmes down as the starting center, but with Donald Thomas (quad, bicep) still working his way back, the starting guard positions could end up taking some time. Hugh Thornton, who took Thomas's spot after he was injured last season, has been working with the first team at right guard during organized team activities. Lance Louis had been working with the first team at left guard, but rookie Jack Mewhort, the Colts' second-round pick, moved ahead of him last week. The competition will intensify during training camp.

Running back competition: Just like the battle for the starting guard position, we won't get full competition for the starting running back position because Vick Ballard (knee) isn't expected to take part, as he's still working his way back from ACL surgery. Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw, the other two primary candidates, both wore red non-contact jerseys during OTAs. So this is another competition that won't pick up until training camp. All three players will get playing time, but keep in mind that coach Chuck Pagano said earlier in the offseason they want a workhorse in the backfield.

Landry sighting: Safety LaRon Landry has been the most significant healthy player missing during OTAs. It's not required for players to attend OTAs and Landry prefers to work out on his own during the offseason. But it still would have been good if he would have popped in for some of the workouts because of the need for improvement for the defense, the transition from a seasoned veteran in Antoine Bethea to possibly Delano Howell, who lacks significant experience, and Landry simply didn't have a great first season with the Colts. The offense, as long as Andrew Luck is the quarterback, will be fine. He's shown he can be effective even without good blocking. The same can't be said about a defense that finished 20th in the league last season.

The Bjoern factor: The fact linebacker Robert Mathis (suspension) won't be with the Colts the first four games of the season has definitely sunk in. Now it's up to second-year player Bjoern Werner, who gets the first shot to start in Mathis's absence, to prove he was worth the Colts selecting him in the first round after an inconsistent rookie season. "This year it's just knowing the defense and to feel comfortable in the defense," Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. "Now it's just his ability to get to the passer, which it's kind of you want him to do that in these OTAs, but he's never really going to get there because you don't have the pads on. But he's been doing a great job at least from the calls and signals and getting everything lined up and knowing exactly what he's supposed to do. It's a great situation for him."

Can Adams help: The Colts signed veteran safety Mike Adams over the weekend to take Corey Lynch's spot on the roster after placing him on injured reserve. Howell is leading the race to start, but Adams has started 73 games in his career. The question about Adams is: Does he have enough left in his 33-year-old body to help the Colts and possibly supplant Howell as the starting safety alongside Landry?

Who won't be there: Barring a sudden change of events, here are the players -- not including those on injured reserve -- you won't see taking part in minicamp. Receiver Reggie Wayne (knee), Ballard (knee) and Thomas (quad, bicep).

Bradshaw cleared to practice

June, 4, 2014
6/04/14
4:00
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- It didn't take long for Indianapolis Colts running back Ahmad Bradshaw to return to the field with his teammates.

Bradshaw
Bradshaw, who did not take in the team's OTA session last week, was back practicing Wednesday, albeit wearing a red non-contact jersey. He was cleared to participate in OTAs late last week. Bradshaw underwent neck surgery last season after injuring it in Week 3 against San Francisco.

"It feels good to be out there with my teammates again," he said. "It allows me to work on the timing with the quarterbacks and offensive line."

Participating in OTAs is a significant step for Bradshaw. He dealt with foot injuries the past two seasons, causing him to sit out the offseason programs. He signed with the Colts at the end of OTAs last season.

"It's definitely a different feeling being able to take part in these workouts," Bradshaw said.

Bradshaw's return leaves Vick Ballard as the only one of the Colts' three running backs pushing for the starting spot not taking part in the OTAs. Training camp is the earliest that Ballard will be back on the field because he's still working his way back from a torn ACL, suffered in practice prior to Week 2 last season.
Richardson
INDIANAPOLIS -- Having quarterbacks wear red jerseys during practices is not an uncommon thing because they have to be handled with care. But Indianapolis Colts running back Trent Richardson also had a red jersey during Thursday’s organized team activities (OTAs) session.

Richardson said the jersey is a precaution after he had surgery on his shoulder earlier this year.

"I'm feeling pretty good, it’s just up to the coach on whenever I should take the jersey off," Richardson said.

Richardson, who is trying to bounce-back from a disappointing first season with the Colts, was limited in running, which is why he put on some unnecessary weight. He recently dropped 15 pounds and is down to his ideal playing weight of 225 pounds. He said he weighed around 230 pounds last season.

Richardson, who lost his starting spot to Donald Brown last season, is working with the first team during OTAs. Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw, the two players he’s competing with for the starting position, are not taking part in OTAs.
INDIANAPOLIS -- A common phrase used by the Indianapolis Colts last season was: power running game.

They had do-everything quarterback Andrew Luck, but they insisted on a being a run-first team. The only sign of that working happened in their Week 3 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Injuries and lack of running game from Trent Richardson and Donald Brown forced the Colts to basically become a no-huddle offensive team by the end of the season.

They started the season mixing in some two-back sets. They ended it basically using one-back, one-tight-end, three-receiver sets.

Luck
New season, new mind frame from offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.

"We’re going to be a score-first team," Hamilton said. "We’re going to do whatever we need to do to score one more point than our opponent."

Don’t kid yourself; Hamilton won't allow Luck to drop back in the pocket and fling the ball downfield -- even if he does have plenty of weapons at his disposal -- 50 times per game. The Colts will still run the ball, which is why they have three backs they think will carry the load.

But as Hamilton said, it’s all about scoring more points than the opponent, and that likely will end up being with Luck doing what he does best: using his arm.

The Colts threw the ball 582 times and ran it 409 times last season.

"Our mentality has not changed; we have to be physical at the point of attack. We have to try and knock people off the ball and wear them down physically," Hamilton said. "We have to have a sense of balance and still have a physical mentality, make up going into games so we can wear our opponents down how we see fit."

Hamilton had an opportunity to leave the NFL to become the head coach at Vanderbilt, but he decided to return to the Colts because he believes in the product they have in the organization. He’s back for Year 2 as an NFL offensive coordinator, and instead of being forced to dig deep into the playbook to find plays to suit their offensive personnel, Hamilton should have a cupboard full of healthy players next season barring any setbacks with their return from injuries.

By Week 7 last season, the Colts were without tight end Dwayne Allen, guard Donald Thomas, running backs Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw and receiver Reggie Wayne for the season. Those players were replaced by Jack Doyle, Weslye Saunders, Hugh Thornton, Brown, Richardson, Da’Rick Rogers and Griff Whalen.

No offense to those players, but that’s a drop-off for Hamilton, who at times made some questionable play calls to work with.

Things should be different this season for him and the Colts.

"Not only do we have some guys that are proven playmakers in the National Football League, but we have an opportunity to build on what we accomplished last year and hopefully take that next step," Hamilton said. "It’ll be great to have Reggie, Dwayne and all those guys available to see if we can go out and accomplish our ultimate goal.

"The toughest part [of last season] was making sure that we had the packages available to accommodate the personnel changes that were made from week to week. When I say personnel changes, I’m talking about the attrition, the attrition that we had to deal with. Other than that, it wasn’t tough. When you have Andrew Luck, that really gives you an ability to adapt to whatever the circumstances are and have a chance to be successful."
I credit New York Giants rookie running back Andre Williams for staying level-headed amid breathless NFL post-draft hype. Someone asked him Tuesday about whether he, Rashad Jennings and a healthy David Wilson could create a "three-headed monster" at running back. His answer was, basically, that everybody should slow down with that kind of talk.

"I can't really say they're going to build that three-headed monster," said Williams, the 2013 NCAA rushing yards leader the Giants took in the fourth round of the draft. "I'm not really too sure yet. I'm just getting here and learning as much as I can. I think each running back brings a lot of different specialties, and I'm just excited to see what we'll be able to do once we're out on the field."

Good for Williams for the straight talk. One of the things I hate most about NFL analysis is the extent to which it seeks examples from the past to cling to. The Giants won the Super Bowl at the end of the 2007 season with a "three-headed monster" of Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw at running back. In no way does that mean (a) that's the way they like to handle running back; or (b) that it can or should be expected to work again with the current group. None of the Giants' current running backs has accomplished anything close to what Jacobs and Bradshaw accomplished in their careers, and the plain fact is the Giants will be very fortunate if any one of them ever comes close.

No one knows if Wilson will ever play again following neck surgery. Indications are that he will, but no one knows for sure yet. Jennings hasn't been a full-time starter for an extended period of time in the league, and no one knows how he'll do in that role. And Williams is a fourth-round pick who needs to get used to the speed of the NFL game, his pass-protection responsibilities ... everything, really, as he appears to know. Peyton Hillis is likely still ahead of him on the depth chart and could stay there into the season. Williams has to earn his way up the ladder like any Giants rookie, and part of the point of having depth at running back is to make sure they don't need to rush him.

I had as much fun watching Williams as anyone did last year. I think Wilson is electrifying when healthy. And I think the Giants' reasoning on Jennings is sound, looking at him as a lightly used guy who could be about to hit his prime late, even if they did jump the market a bit to sign him. But man, there are still a lot of unknowns here. And the odds are nearly 100 percent that, however it works out, it will look different than any running back arrangement the Giants have used in the past. Heck, it's an entirely new offense this year, in case anyone forgot about that.

Let's let Wilson get healthy and let Williams develop along his own track and let Jennings be the lead dog, as he was signed to be, and see whether he performs in the role. If you followed the Giants last year, you saw tons of examples of things not going according to plan at running back. Don't be in a rush to anoint anyone anything. The Giants like their stable of backs, as long as they're all healthy, and they'll let it play out according to what they see. Not what they saw seven years ago.

Colts offseason wrap-up

May, 23, 2014
5/23/14
10:00
AM ET
» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the Indianapolis Colts' offseason moves.

[+] EnlargeVontae Davis
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesThe Colts moved quickly in free agency to retain talented CB Vontae Davis.
Best move: The Colts couldn't let cornerback Vontae Davis walk in free agency. Not after giving up a second-round pick for him in 2012. Not when they'll likely have to beat Tom Brady and/or Peyton Manning to reach the ultimate goal of representing the AFC in the Super Bowl. Davis and Greg Toler (when healthy) give the Colts a solid cornerback duo. The Colts wasted little time -- just a couple of hours into free agency -- in re-signing Davis to a four-year, $39 million deal.

Riskiest move: Center, center, center. The Colts' belief in second-year center Khaled Holmes kept them from heavily pursing another option on the free-agent market. Cleveland's Alex Mack was the best center on the market, but the Colts didn't want to pay the heavy price tag to try to get the transition-tagged player. Indianapolis signed Phil Costa only to have him leave the money behind and suddenly retire before ever playing a snap with his new team.

Most surprising move: Running back Ahmad Bradshaw's time with the Colts looked to be over after the team announced in October he was having season-ending neck surgery. Bradshaw wanted to continue his career, but it appeared it would have to be elsewhere because of Indianapolis' loaded backfield. But Bradshaw's desire to win and team with Vick Ballard and Trent Richardson in the backfield brought him back for at least another year.

Best move Part II: The Colts couldn't risk not addressing the receiver situation. Veteran Reggie Wayne is coming off ACL surgery, and you don't know what you're going to get out of young receivers Da'Rick Rogers, LaVon Brazill and Griff Whalen. Signing former New York Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks to a one-year deal is a win-win situation for the Colts and Nicks. Nicks is coming off a season in which he didn't catch a touchdown pass for the first time in his career, and he's looking to land a nice payday in 2015. Nicks is a proven receiver and gives the Colts another option to go with T.Y. Hilton if Wayne can't regain his previous form.
Jerry ReesePat Lovell/USA TODAY SportsOf the 39 players drafted during GM Jerry Reese's first five drafts, only eight remain on the roster.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There are New York Giants fans reading this who aren't sure how to feel about this year's draft but assume it'll be all right because they trust GM Jerry Reese as a good drafter.

They shouldn't. Because the evidence says he's not.

Reese's reputation as a good operator of the draft rests on two things -- his very good debut draft as Giants GM in 2007, and the fact that the Giants have won two Super Bowls during his seven seasons in the position. But that shouldn't be enough, really. The 2007 draft was seven years ago now, and he hasn't had a good draft since. And the Super Bowl is used far too often to excuse other sins. It's one game (or two, in this case). If Mario Manningham's pinkie toe is on the sideline when he makes that catch, or if Rob Gronkowski's end-zone lunge starts a half-second sooner that night in Indianapolis, would it then be OK to criticize the Giants' recent draft record? If the answer is yes, then it should be OK to do so anyway. Credit the people who run the Giants for the Super Bowl titles, but it's also on them that their team has missed the playoffs four of the past five years.

I don't think Reese is a bad GM. His in-season work last year to patch holes with guys such as Jon Beason and Brandon Jacobs kept the Giants from being historically awful. He was active and smart in free agency this spring, wisely identifying his roster as one that needed widespread repair. Victor Cruz as an undrafted free-agent find is on his résumé, too. But when it comes to the draft, a deeper look reveals a troubling lack of clothes on this particular emperor.

Discount, just for our purposes here, the 2012 and 2013 drafts, which are still too recent to evaluate. (Though it's tough to feel real excited about the David Wilson/Rueben Randle/Jayron Hosley start in 2012 so far). Look at Reese's first five drafts -- 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. He selected a total of 39 players and only eight are on the current roster. One of those eight, Manningham, left for two years and came back. Four of the eight came from the 2011 draft, so only four of the 31 players he took in his first four drafts are on the team at the moment, and only three have been on it all along.

[+] EnlargeHakeem Nicks
Al Bello/Getty ImagesHakeem Nicks is the latest former Giants first-rounder who didn't sign a second contract with the team.
Of all the players Reese has drafted for the Giants, exactly three -- Ahmad Bradshaw, Will Beatty and Zak DeOssie -- signed second long-term contracts with the team after their rookie deals. Reese's first three first-rounders -- Aaron Ross, Kenny Phillips and Hakeem Nicks -- all signed elsewhere when they hit free agency. Linval Joseph, the second-round pick in 2010, also was not re-signed. These were fine picks who produced for the Giants, but you can't say you're building through the draft when you're not retaining those types of guys. Even in a league where the average player's career lasts less than four years, consistent failure to retain your top picks beyond that time frame is evidence that you're doing something wrong.

Who's Reese's best pick? After Bradshaw, the 2007 seventh-round steal who helped deliver one Super Bowl as a rookie and another as a veteran, it's probably 2010 first-rounder Jason Pierre-Paul. They don't make the 2011 playoffs, let alone win that year's Super Bowl, without Pierre-Paul. But 2011 was Pierre-Paul's only good year so far. He's a near-permanent resident of the weekly injury report and he has a total of two sacks in the Giants' past 23 games. He could become the fourth to join that list of second-contract guys, but so far he hasn't. And if he limps around and fails to produce this year, he becomes a contract-year question mark just like Phillips and Nicks were. Best pick? The most consistently reliable long-term contributor Reese has taken is DeOssie, the fourth-round mainstay long-snapper.

There's miss after miss at key spots in early and middle rounds, and Giants fans know their names: Clint Sintim, Ramses Barden, Phillip Dillard, Marvin Austin, James Brewer. Since Bradshaw in 2007, there are no late-round gems who've surprised and become major contributors. Some of it is because of injury. Some can be blamed on those charged with player development. But this is a results business, and for whatever reason -- too many risks, too much trust in poor evaluations, whatever -- Reese hasn't delivered the kinds of draft results that help build strong organizations.

The Giants have drafted as poorly over the past half-decade as any team in the league. The results showed up last year in a hollowed-out roster that had to overachieve to get to 7-9 and required Reese to sign more free agents than anyone else this offseason in order to fill its many holes. This past weekend, Reese delivered a tepid draft. The Giants are excited about the dynamic Odell Beckham Jr., their first-round pick. And they like the center, Weston Richburg, they got in the second round. But the rest of the draft was safe and dull, devoted to finding what Reese calls "clean" players. Every pick after the second round looks like a player who's just about at his ceiling and can make an immediate contribution as a backup and/or special-teamer, but almost all of them were reaches and very few look likely to blossom into future stars.

Maybe that's for the best. The Giants needed to draft differently this year than they have in recent years, because they've been absolutely terrible at it. They needed to pull a George Costanza and start doing everything the opposite of the way they usually do it, because it never seems to work out. Reese's reputation as a shrewd drafter isn't deserved, and good for him if he realized he needed to change things up. It's time to stop assuming all is well here just because of the four trophies in the lobby. It's time for the Giants to start thinking about what they can do to build their roster back up and put themselves back in a position to even have a shot at winning a fifth.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

NFL SCOREBOARD

Sunday, 1/25