Pressure Builds For Former Razorback

INDIANAPOLIS -- Tony Ugoh said he can handle pressure. That's not only a good thing for the Indianapolis Colts' rookie left tackle, it's a necessity this season.

Ugoh, a former Arkansas standout, has been thrust into the starting lineup for the defending Super Bowl champions.

His main assignment is to protect the blind side of seven-time Pro Bowl quarterback Peyton Manning -- as if proving his high second-round draft status wasn't stressful enough.

"It is extra pressure blocking Peyton's backside, but it's nothing I can't handle," Ugoh said after his second preseason game.

Ugoh's role is what the Colts had in mind, just maybe not so soon after selecting him 42nd overall in April's NFL Draft.

The plan was for Ugoh to play a reserve role for at least a year, learning the position behind three-time Pro Bowler Tarik Glenn. But Glenn's retirement prior to training camp moved Ugoh into the starting lineup and media spotlight. Numerous media outlets list the situation as the Colts' biggest concern this season.

"I've really tried to avoid the weekly or daily progress report on him because it's been a highly scrutinized position that he's in," Manning said.

Ugoh was traveling back to Indianapolis in mid-July, from his home in Houston, when he received word of Glenn's decision to retire. He didn't immediately think about the opportunity Glenn's retirement offered his career.

"First, I was really sad to lose a teammate," Ugoh said. "For the short time I was here, he really helped me out a lot (during mini camp).

"That was a major thing."

While his position on the team's depth chart changed with the news, his approach to training camp didn't.

"My plan from the get-go was to just work hard and wherever the team needed me to help them was what I was willing to do," Ugoh said. "That has been my plan since Day One.

"The only thing you can control is your work ethic."

Ugoh needs every bit of that work ethic in practice, going against two-time NFL All-Pro Dwight Freeney.

"You're not going to find anyone better than him," Ugoh said. "I'm basically blocking the best and going against the best everyday in practice."

Freeney doesn't envy Ugoh's new position.

"I think the offensive line is one of the hardest positions to get in there and be an impact player right away," Freeney said. "Usually it takes guys four or five years ... and then by their sixth or seventh year they're good as they're going to be.

"But, Tony is looking real good. He is very athletic and has tremendous upside."

Ugoh has made his share of mistakes this preseason, which is fine with him.

"This is why they have training camp -- for the new guys," Ugoh said.

With two preseason games under his belt, Ugoh has already seen some top-level pass rushers.

In the Colts' 27-24 loss to Chicago on Monday, he went against Mark Anderson, who had 12 sacks last season.

"Tony is learning as he goes," Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy said. "He got a good taste from some good rushers (against Chicago) and I think he held his own, and I think he held his own against two pretty good rushers last week (against Dallas).

"This is what he's going to face, week in and week out, and so far he's been up to the task."

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