Ex-Colts coach Caldwell focused on football during Indy homecoming

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jim Caldwell skipped the homecoming parade Thursday and got right to work.

With the first of two joint practices in Indianapolis before Sunday's preseason opener, the Detroit Lions coach didn't have time to shake hands, recount stories or reminisce about the decade he spent on these very same fields. Besides, it's not his style.

"Most people will tell you I'm not that nostalgic," Caldwell said. "Obviously, I spent 10 years here and I certainly have some good memories. We won a lot of football games, had a lot of good teams."

For Caldwell, it was an incredible run.

Here, he went from being a quarterbacks coach to a head coaching candidate. Eventually, he became the hand-picked successor to Tony Dungy and presided over one of the best seasons ever by a rookie head coach.

Here, Caldwell helped Peyton Manning refine his skills and watched him break the NFL's single-season record for TD passes and win the first four of his record-breaking five MVP awards.

And it was here that Caldwell won the first of his two Super Bowl rings and led the Colts to a second Super Bowl appearance after replacing Dungy in 2009.

Colts fans remember the Caldwell era for three other defining moments: the decision to pull Indy's starters for the final two games in 2009 rather than chase a perfect record; the inability to recover an onside kick, which led to the Super Bowl loss against New Orleans; and Manning's absence in 2011, which led to a 2-14 record, Caldwell's firing and wholesale changes within the organization.

But Caldwell never looked back.

Three weeks after being fired, he was hired as Baltimore's quarterbacks coach. His midseason promotion to offensive coordinator helped the Ravens eliminate Indy in the playoffs to start their second title run -- and put Caldwell's name in the mix for a second chance as a head coach.

"I think Coach Caldwell and his staff did a great job with tempo today. They talked to their guys about that, you could tell," said Colts coach Chuck Pagano, the man who replaced Caldwell in Indy. "Look, Jim and I both worked in Baltimore. We both know what 'thud' is. We both know what 'tag' is. It's about getting some good work in and not crossing the line."

Both teams kept their emotions in check Thursday.

While the practice was occasionally physical, there were no fistfights, no skirmishes, not even a minor shoving match.

The only real issue was injuries.


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Colts center Ryan Kelly and Lions right tackle Rick Wagner both left practice early with undisclosed injuries.

"I didn't see it, I heard about after they took him off," Pagano said when asked about Kelly's status. "We'll have to find out what it is."

Losing Kelly for any significant time would be a major blow for the Colts.

Last year's first-round draft pick stabilized a position that had been a revolving door for Andrew Luck's first four NFL seasons. Undrafted rookie Deyshawn Bond, who played high school football on Indy's east side, filled in for the rest of practice.

The Colts also are thin at center with Brian Schwenke, the projected backup still on the physically-unable-to-perform list. Left guard Joe Haeg and right guard Jack Mewhort have snapped the ball occasionally during training camp.

Detroit has a similar problem with left tackle Taylor Decker expected to miss at least the first month of the regular season with a shoulder injury and now Wagner out with what sounds like a minor injury.

"He's just out for a little bit, but he should be OK," Caldwell said. "He was out there at the start but just had a little issue. He'll be all right."

Perhaps the best news for Caldwell is that now that reunion day is over, he can spend the rest of the weekend working solely on football.

"I really have had an opportunity to see most of the people that are here," Caldwell said. "I see a lot of them at league meetings and things of that nature -- (team owner) Jim (Irsay) and his daughters. But some of the folks here, I don't get a chance to see. So, some of those folks it was great to see them. It's been a while."

NOTE: Colts receiver Phillip Dorsett (hamstring), running back Marlon Mack (shoulder) and linebacker Antonio Morrison (groin) all sat out Thursday. Pagano said linebacker Jon Bostic had a pin inserted into a fractured finger and also missed practice.