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August 1, 2013

Fleener turning heads early in Colts training camp

Second-year tight end looking to improve upon rookie season.

ANDERSON — The person least impressed by Coby Fleener’s hot start to training camp appears to be the second-year Indianapolis Colts tight end himself.

Perhaps he’s thinking back to his rookie season when he debuted with six catches for 82 yards against the Chicago Bears, then missed four games in the middle of the year and finished with five straight single-catch performances.

Or maybe there’s an even simpler explanation. It’s possible Fleener has a strong idea what he’s capable of and doesn’t believe he’s come close to showing it yet.

Either way, others have been more than happy to do the talking for him. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton raved about his early production, and head coach Chuck Pagano called him a mismatch and a handful for defenders.

“I’m happy with that assessment, but it kind of remains to be seen,” Fleener said of Pagano’s praise. “It’s early in camp yet. Hopefully, that’ll translate to games.”

Dealing with a shoulder injury during Weeks 8 through 11, Fleener finished with 26 catches for 281 yards and two touchdowns in 2012. Those numbers did not compare favorably to third-round pick and fellow rookie Dwayne Allen, who racked up 45 catches for 521 yards and three scores.

Allen also flashed all-around talent that included solid blocking in the running game, and he seemed to get stronger as the year wore on. All of which caused some fans to question how the former Clemson star lasted a full round later in the draft than his more ballyhooed teammate.

Rather than allow the comparisons to fray their relationship, Fleener and Allen have used their personal competition to help each improve his game. It seems to be working.

Allen looks more fluid and flexible in his routes this season, and he can be added to Fleener’s ever-growing group of admirers.

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