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Colts busy before opening of camp, sign six draft picks

INDIANAPOLIS -- Mike Pollak insisted he would show up for work on time.

After a series of whirlwind negotiations, Pollak, the Indianapolis Colts' top draft pick, and most of his rookie classmates will report to camp together Thursday.

Pollak and five other Indy draft picks agreed to four-year deals Wednesday, with Pollak expected to earn roughly $3 million, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations who requested anonymity because the contract includes a confidentiality clause.

"That was one of the major prerequisites for him and his family when I first sat down with them," said Ken Zuckerman, Pollak's agent. "He said 'holdout' was not a category he wanted to be in."

Zuckerman confirmed the agreement in a text message to The Associated Press on Wednesday afternoon and later said Pollak was expected to sign the contract Wednesday night.

For the Colts it was a busy final day before heading to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, where practice begins Friday.

Besides signing Pollak, a college center taken 59th overall, they also agreed to terms with fourth-round pick Jacob Tamme, a tight end from Kentucky; fifth-round pick Marcus Howard, a pass rushing defensive end from Georgia; two sixth-rounders -- offensive lineman Steve Justice of Wake Forest and running back Mike Hart of Michigan; and seventh-rounder Jamey Richard, an offensive lineman from Buffalo.

Agents for third-round pick Philip Wheeler, a linebacker from Georgia Tech, and Virginia tight end Tom Santi, another sixth-rounder, did not return messages left by The Associated Press.

Until Tuesday, the Colts were 0-for-9 in signing draft picks. But when receiver Pierre Garcon, a sixth-round choice from Mount Union, a Division III school in Ohio, signed Tuesday, the floodgates opened.

"We knew all along we would work something out," said Howard's agent, Brian Ayrault. "He wanted to be in camp on time, I wanted him to be in camp on time and we were fighting for the best deal we could get."

Like Howard, who is moving from linebacker to defensive end, Pollak is switching positions.

He was considered one of the nation's best centers last season at Arizona State, but the Colts expect him to compete for the starting guard spot vacated by Jake Scott, who signed with Tennessee in free agency. Scott and tight end Ben Utecht, who signed with Cincinnati, are the only starters missing from last year's team that went 13-3 and won its fifth straight AFC South title.

The Colts' other starting guard, Ryan Lilja, is expected to open training camp on the physically-unable-to-perform-list, giving Pollak and Justice -- also a college center -- more time to learn the Colts' system.

It was one of the reasons Pollak realized he couldn't afford a lengthy holdout.

"Right now, that's the biggest issue, adjusting to the (guard) techniques," Pollak said during one of the team's minicamps last month. "I'm playing good, but that's been the biggest focus other than the playbook."

Tamme also is expected to make an immediate contribution.

Known at Kentucky as more a receiver than a blocker, Tamme is expected to help fill the void created by Utecht's departure. Tamme said he studied the Colts offense in college, but understands he needs to learn the details and get comfortable within the Colts' trademark no-huddle offense quickly.

"He's ready to get to work, the team is eager to have him and the Colts were very fair," said Bill Johnson, Tamme's agent.

Hart adds depth to a backfield that already includes the reunited Super Bowl-winning tandem of Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes. Addai went to the Pro Bowl last year, his first season as a full-time starter. Rhodes re-signed with the Colts after spending one season in Oakland.

Team president Bill Polian, however, wasn't scared off by Hart's poor showing in the 40-yard dash. Hart, who spent draft weekend enduring a long wait, believes he can be just as productive in the NFL as he was at Michigan, where he finished as the school's career rushing leader.

The plethora of announcements Wednesday was no surprise to coach Tony Dungy, who said one day earlier he expected everyone to report by Thursday afternoon's deadline.

Yet even with the signing scramble, the Colts won't open camp anywhere near full strength.

Two-time league MVP Peyton Manning and Bob Sanders, the 2007 Defensive Player of the Year, are expected to be placed on the PUP list after having offseason surgery. The Colts also plan to put former sacks champion Dwight Freeney and linebacker Tyjuan Hagler, both starters, on the PUP list along with Santi.

Manning had surgery last week to remove an infected bursa sac from his right knee and is scheduled to make his first public comments Thursday.

All are expected to be healthy for the regular-season opener Sept. 7 against Chicago.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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