INDIANAPOLIS — The buzz at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center this spring has been all about the locker room.
From the day he took the job in 2017, Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard has talked about championship culture. He's studied the franchises that have sustained success across a wide swath of professional sports, and the common denominator is character.
Certainly, talent is a prerequisite, but chemistry is the element Ballard saw that consistently separated the best of the crop.
He saw some tangible returns from the locker room last season as the Colts rallied from a 1-5 start to a wild-card playoff victory. And legendary assistant coach Howard Mudd immediately remarked on the positive atmosphere inside the building upon his return as a senior offensive consultant this offseason.
Right guard Mark Glowinski provided a little more evidence of the dividends that culture can pay last week.
After a breakout season in which he started nine games and earned a reputation as a relentless people mover, Glowinski signed a three-year, $18 million contract extension without even taking a peek at what might be available on the open market.
“I felt the most comfortable here,” he explained. “My first thought was (to do) whatever it takes to be here. There’s always a thought of being somewhere else, but after meeting everybody — and just the o-line, that kind of cohesion and stuff that we had — I think it was a no-brainer to be here and work together. Even if it meant taking a little bit less. I thought it was more important to be somewhere that I would be happy.”
That's at the heart of what Ballard is looking for.
It's not the potential discount involved as much as the reason behind it. Above almost everything else, Ballard and head coach Frank Reich want players who want to be in Indianapolis.
That's a fairly obvious request and one shared by each of the 31 other NFL teams.
But few opponents likely share the Colts' obsession with character.
“There are times (during the season) when it’s not going to go the way you want it to go,” Ballard said. “Well, who digs out of those? People that have the right makeup to get you out of the hole. I really believe last year that was a reason why (the team made the playoffs). I mean Frank and his staff did an unbelievable job of coaching, one. Then, two, you had a locker room of men who weren’t going to be denied.
“So to me (character) is important. Look, I am realistic enough that we aren’t going to have a locker room full of choir boys, and it’s not always going to be perfect. They’ve got to have talent. I mean, talent wins in this league. We say it all the time, when they’ve got talent and character, that’s a home run.”
Glowinski took a long and winding road to Indy.
He was a fourth-round pick by Seattle in 2015 and started all 16 games during his second season. But his play slipped in 2017.
Glowinski lost his starting job twice before being cut in December. The Colts picked him up on waivers two days later and carried him through the remainder of the season.
He was far from an overnight success in Indianapolis.
Glowinski made the roster last summer coming out of training camp, but he and fellow offensive lineman Denzelle Good were asked to take a pay cut during the process.
He opened the regular season as a backup to free agent addition Matt Slauson but moved into the starting lineup in October, after Slauson suffered what proved to be a career-ending back injury.
As part of the league's most improved offensive line, the Colts were 8-2 with Glowinski in the lineup last year — including the postseason.
It was more than enough for Ballard to see the ability to overcome adversity in Glowinski and reward him with a contract that makes him a building block of the franchise's future.
Glowinski shrugs off the underdog narrative.
He's fully bought into Reich's one-percent-better-every-day motto, and he said the focus this offseason is on improving technique and fundamentals.
Reich has made no secret he wants to improve the running game in 2019, and Glowinski's face lights up at the mention of the challenge.
Constantly pushing forward is what drives him. Not looking back on the road to get here.
“I’m not working for that particular goal (a new contract),” Glowinski said. “I’m working to be the best I can be, and I feel like that’s what everybody’s goal should be.”