Leading By Example

By Phil Richards
Updated: September 6, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS — Jim Caldwell isn’t one to waste words. Neither is he much for shouting them. That combination can have an effect.

“You listen up. Everything that comes out of his mouth helps you, on and off the field,” Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle Eric Foster said. “One of the things he said was, ‘Talent beats hard work only if talent works hard.’

“I like that. That stuck with me.”

Caldwell is in his eighth season with the Colts but only his eighth month as Tony Dungy’s head coaching successor. Most of Caldwell’s first seven years were spent coaching quarterbacks. Most of the team still is getting a feel for him, but sometimes he makes an impression.

Like in the training camp drill during which he saw some players crossing the line between earnest effort and reckless aggression. He considered it a lapse in discipline.

“He called everybody up and addressed the issue and we went back to work,” tight end Dallas Clark said. “I don’t recall Tony doing that, whether the incident ever took place while he was here. It’s just something he handled by stopping everybody right away.”

On Jan. 13, the day of his promotion, Caldwell offered that he was a little more emotional than Dungy, that in their eight years together he had never heard Dungy raise his voice, and that “I might break that record.”

Nothing official, yet.

“A little bit,” offered defensive end Dwight Freeney. “No yelling. I think we kind of hit a (wide receiver) a little too hard in practice. He kind of raised his voice a little bit.”

Caldwell isn’t bashful, but it’s early. He won’t coach an NFL game for keeps until Sunday, when Jacksonville visits Lucas Oil Stadium for the season opener. The feeling-out process is ongoing, said the Colt who probably knows Caldwell best.

“As a quarterbacks coach, he was familiar with some of the main offensive guys, but mostly just quarterbacks,” quarterback Peyton Manning said.

“I see him talking to defensive players a lot, getting to know them, and I see him taking a lot of guys off to the side and giving them individual coaching.

“We’re getting used to him in team meetings. You’re starting to hear some of the things that he likes to repeat over and over again, the things that are important to him.”

One of them is no excuses. Caldwell neither makes nor accepts them.

Another might be how it all works.

“It’s still a meritocracy,” Caldwell said. “You have to earn it.”