First off, the Colts have lost a great man and a great coach in Howard Mudd, who was considered by many to be one of the greatest offensive line coaches of all-time. You coached with Mudd and then brought him back on staff last year; when you think of Howard Mudd, what are some things that immediately come to mind?
Reich: “Well, Howard was just football through and through. He had a great innovative mind. He was really fast on his feet; I think he was at his best on gameday, seeing things and making adjustments. And then just had a knack of relating to players and getting the best out of them. I know for me, I got my break into coaching here as an assistant with Indy, with Howard as the offensive line coach, and he just taught me a ton about offensive line play and the run game and pass protection, and just became very close with Howard. And then we had a chance to get him back here for a little bit, which was a lot of fun. And certainly have the greatest memories of Howard; great man and a great coach.”
You had told that story earlier that Mudd didn’t mind going toe-to-toe with you at times, and he enjoyed being challenged:
Reich: “No doubt. I mean, he was definitely old school. He was going to get in your face and challenge you, and I think that was one of the way he’d bring out the best in people. And certainly I’m sure there’s a long list of guys that can attest to that.”
Now that we’re another week into training camp, what kind of improvement did you see out of your team?
Reich: “So today (Friday) was really the first day we’re going full speed against each other, even though we’re not in pads. So I thought the guys did a really good job of competing hard, but knowing that we’re not in full pads, so you have to learn how to practice together and still be able to go hard and fast, but stay off the ground. So I thought they showed great maturity and a great approach to practice today. Also it was a good give and take; we, of course, believe that we’re good on both sides of the ball, and so what you saw out there today was some nice-looking plays from the offense — big plays, nice runs, a few good deep passes — and then you saw the defense making some plays as well. And it was a really good give and take, and I think that’s what gonna make us better, if we can learn how to compete against each other out here like that, I think we’ll be tough to handle.”
Now things start to gradually ramp up, and starting Monday the pads come on. How eager is the team to get to that phase of camp? Right now you’re doing what you can do, but once the full pads come on, we know that’s the closest thing to regular season football, which will be here before you know it.
Reich: “We’re looking forward to it. I think the guys are looking forward to it. I think the ramp-up period’s been good, I think it’s been appropriate, but I think everybody wants to get the pads on and take that final step as far as preparing for the regular season, to be able to bang around a little bit. Players need to be conditioned; their bodies, they’re in great shape, but it adds another element to it when you’re banging around all of the time. And so I think everybody knows how important that is, and is looking forward to it.”
You had mentioned a couple weeks ago that when the pads do come on, you need to get after it, and there needs to be some degree of physicality to practice. Do you know what that looks like yet? And what is the balance between getting nasty, getting ready for the season, but also wanting to stay healthy for Week 1?
Reich: “It is a fine balance, but what we talk about is really playing with good fundamentals and technique, playing to the whistle, but also having the maturity to understand it’s not live. We may have some live periods along the road, along the way to the regular season, but when it’s not a live period, we just have to always keep in mind that kind of last step; there’s no cut blocking, there’s no taking a guy to the ground on a tackle, those kind of things. So we’ve got to be smart about it, but yet we’ve still got to maintain a physicality, especially up front and inside, that really is created in our mindset by the way we practice every day.”
There’s a lot you have to accomplish once the pads come on; you get 14 fully-padded practices before the start of the regular season. How challenging is it to fit everything in over the next few weeks to get a full evaluation of the roster while also keeping the starters ready to go?
Reich: “There’s a lot to get accomplished. We’ll get it accomplished; it’s all planned out. It’s mapped out from here to Jacksonville (Week 1 of the regular season), and I feel like we’ve got a good plan to get it all done.”
A lot of fans are excited about the return of wide receiver Parris Campbell. He’s coming off a bad-luck rookie season in terms of injuries; how’s he looking so far, and where do you see the most growth heading into Year 2?
Reich: “Parris has done a really good in the offseason of getting healthy, getting strong, getting in great shape. He really looks good. You know, we’ve got a long way to go until the season, but right now, I mean, he looks fast, he looks strong and he’s poised and a very smart player. He and Philip (Rivers) had a chance to throw together a number of times before we even got started here, so I think they’ve been able to start to build a chemistry together, so he just needs to keep taking the next step.”
You’re getting your first taste of DeForest Buckner up front for this Colts defense. I know the full pads aren’t on quite yet, but do you get an early sense of the impact he can make for you?
Reich: “Yeah, there’s no doubt. You can see his movements, you can see his strength, his size, his power, quickness. Yeah, that shows up, even now, as you said, without the pads on. He made a couple nice plays out there today (Friday); I just think his presence on the defense is going to really ignite a lot of good things on defense.”
When do you start setting your sights on the season opener against the Jaguars? Is it too early to start game planning for them, or do you just take a one-day-at-a-time approach to maximize the time you have here in camp?
Reich: “We did do some looking at Jacksonville, really, in the offseason before we were in here — some preliminary work. But now that we’re into camp, (there’s) a little bit here and there when you have a little bit of spare time, you watch a little bit of tape, but really we’re not focused on game planning them just yet. We’ll have plenty of time to do that; right now we’re focused on our installs, and really, Monday when we get into full pads we’ll kind of go back to square one with install one, and then work up through all our installs. And then we’ll really start getting into the Jacksonville stuff.”
Going into a new phase with the pads coming on Monday, what progress do you want to see out of your team this coming week?
Reich: “Just really timing and execution, on both sides of the ball. On offense you start thinking about all the combination blocks there are in the run game, and for us to be good in the run game, the timing and physicality of those things has to be has to be synced up. So you get the pads on, you’re able to get that done. Defensively, same thing: we run a lot of stunts up front on defense and have a lot of pressures, and getting those things timed up and synced up. And when you get the full pads on, you’re just able to really get a good look at those and develop the timing that you need to execute at the level you need in order to win football games.”