By Matt Kane
INDIANAPOLIS The NFL career of Delano’s Nate Triplett took another step in the positive direction Wednesday when he was officially claimed off the San Diego Chargers’ practice squad by the Indianapolis Colts.
Triplett found out about the Colts’ move on him 10:30 Tuesday morning, and reported to the Colts’ training facility in northwest Indianapolis Wednesday morning for his first meeting with the team. That meeting was at 7 a.m., just five hours after his plane from San Diego landed in Indianapolis.
“It was a lot of running around, and guys saying ‘Sign this’ and ‘Look this over,’ and ‘Watch some film,’” Triplett explained Wednesday evening after completing his first practice with the Colts. “There was a lot of stuff going on today, but that’s expected when you are going to a new team.”
One off-the-field thing Triplett had to reacquaint himself with was the weather.
“I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt when I got on the plane in San Diego. I was getting used to San Diego,” he said. “There is snow on the ground here. It was a rude awakening. I forgot what cold was like.”
Triplett’s trip to Indianapolis was sort of a return trip. Three days prior to being signed by the Colts, Triplett was in Indianapolis with San Diego for the Chargers’ 36-14 win over the Colts Sunday night.
“I think it was completely coincidental. I didn’t talk to anybody,” said Triplett of being picked up by the Colts soon after playing against them. “The last thing we would have talked about was me playing here (in Indianapolis). The San Diego coaches were as surprised as I was. Some coaches were trying to get me to stay.”
The recent trip to Indianapolis with the Chargers may have had nothing to do with the Colts’ interest in the rookie linebacker out of Minnesota, but two other trips Triplett made to Indianapolis may have helped his chances. First, the 6-foot-3, 247-pound linebacker was in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine at the end of February, and, during Week 3, one week before signing onto San Diego’s practice squad after being cut by the Vikings, Triplett worked out for the Colts as a free agent.
That workout kept Triplett fresh in the Colts’ mind, but the Colts had their eyes on Triplett well before the regular season started.
“We studied him at the University of Minnesota, and liked what he had done there and the success he had on special teams and then as a defensive starter,” said Colts Vice Predisent and General Manager Chris Polian said. “And we saw him with the Vikings.
“We liked his size, speed, production, and history,” Polian added. “And the way he kept increasing his production over the course of his career at the University of Minnesota.”
A full training camp of working under then-Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier also helped Triplett’s chances with the Colts. Frazier was a defensive backs coach and special assistant to Tony Dungy with the Colts from 2005-07, and the 4-3 defense he taught Triplett for a month in Minnesota was very similar to what the Colts currently run.
“We don’t know how much of the terminology will carry over (from Frazier’s scheme), but, philosophically, it will carry over,” Polian said.
The Colts and Triplett seem like a good match, but, surprisingly, Triplett admitted his decision to accept the Colts’ offer wasn’t a slam dunk. He considered staying with the Chargers, because of the progress he was making with the team in recent weeks.
“The bye week was the best thing for me, because I was able to get reps running the Chargers’ defense. Normally, I wouldn’t get to go beyond the practice squad, but I was actually starting to get thrown in on special teams and was seeing the practice field,” Triplett said.
Ultimately, he couldn’t grant those San Diego coaches their wish by staying with the Chargers.
“It was something that I talked about with my agent for awhile. I was in San Diego for eight weeks and was getting used to their situation and their special teams,” explained Triplett. “There were some positives there, but, from an opportunity standpoint, I get to get out on the field and play this week. The decision was made easier because I was able to get on the field and play.”
San Diego had the opportunity to match the Colts offer, but had no roster space to keep him.
The Colts signed Triplett to a three-year deal, and, because they claimed him off another team’s practice squad, the Colts are required to keep him on their active roster for no less than three games.
Triplett’s road to the NFL began when he was selected in April’s NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings in the fifth round. He was cut by the Vikings at the end of training camp, and signed on with the Chargers’ practice squad in the beginning of October.
Now that he is in Indianapolis as a member of the 53-man roster, Triplett said he is treated a little differently by this teammates than he was in his previous two situations.
“Everyone is trying to win this next game, so if the coaches think I can help, (the players) are more open to me coming in,” said Triplett of the other Colts’ players. He said he did his best during his first day with Indianapolis, getting to know everyone. “I’ve been here less than 24 hours, but I made it a point to talk to everybody and to introduce myself to everybody. I’m getting to know everybody on the defense, for sure.”
Triplett and receiver Taj Smith, who the Colts signed Tuesday, were formally introduced to the entire team at Wednesday morning’s team meeting.
Two faces already with the Colts were familiar to Triplett. Rookie linebacker Pat Angerer, out of Iowa, was at the combine with Triplett, and, of course, the two faced off during their Big 10 seasons. And Kole Heckendorf, a practice squad player out of North Dakota State, was on the Chargers’ practice squad when Triplett was there.
Triplett was added to the Indianapolis roster after the Colts placed linebacker Cody Glenn on the season-ending injured reserve list with a neck injury. Glenn was primarily a special teams players.
Triplett was a stand-out on special teams during his college days at Minnesota, and had a breakout year at linebacker during his senior season, making him a perfect replacement for Glenn.
“This is the first time a roster spot has come up for us at linebacker, and (Nate) is somebody we had an eye on going back to last spring,” Polian said. “Cody’s main contribution was on special teams and Nate will pick that up, but we think he can play linebacker in our system.”
After his first practice with the Colts Wednesday afternoon, Triplett was ordered to learn the special teams playbook, so he was expecting to make his debut on the opening kickoff this Sunday against Dallas at Lucas Oil Field.
“It’s only Thursday, but Nate will be on special teams Sunday,” Polian vouched.
His NFL debut is a day Triplett has dreamed about since his Delano Tiger years.
“A lot of first-year guys really don’t get a chance. I feel fortunate, for one, and it puts in your mind that you do belong here,” he said. “It’s the culmination of what you’ve been working for this season and all seasons in the past. It’s a grand opportunity.”
Triplett wears No. 54 for the Colts.
Unfortunately, Triplett’s family won’t be able to see his debut live. Instead, his parents and two brothers will have to look for their son and older brother in the blue No. 54 on a DVR recording of the Colts’ game. As fate would have it, the Triplett family will be at the Metrodome Sunday for the Vikings’ game against the Bills, where, prior to the game, their youngest son and Triplett’s youngest brother, Christian, will compete in the Punt, Pass & Kick team championship.
The Triplett family plans to attend Triplett’s second home game Sunday, Dec. 19, against the Jacksonville Jaguars.