Can Landry be a punishing enforcer?

Safety LaRon Landry has all the talent and tenaciousness to be one of the NFL's best at his position. The Colts are counting on the physical tackler to be a dominant force.

He sat at his locker, surrounded by reporters. All most of the media throng could see was the back of Indianapolis Colts safety LaRon Landry.

But the converging masses could hear his words Thursday, his first in an interview this season.

It’s not that the man who looks like a chiseled bodybuilder isn’t approachable. But it’s just preseason. And words don’t mean much, not in his world. Talk doesn’t equate to results.

So if Landry seemed somewhat dispassionate about this chat, well, it’s because the hard-hitting defender just sees the work ahead, the long “grind” that is an NFL season, and nothing he can say will speed up the process or guarantee results.

“I feel healthy,” said the eighth-year pro, who missed offseason workouts with what was described as a “soft tissue” injury and then much of training camp. The team listed the latter as a groin injury, but Landry revealed it was a hip. “I’m not going to say I’m over the top, (that I) feel where I want to because we are still building. That’s why there’s preseason, that’s why there’s practice every day, and just to prepare for the season.”

Landry reiterated he feels great, then added he has a lot of things “to tweak.”

It was an ironic choice of words, considering the greatest concern about Landry is that in his hard-hitting approach to playing a violent game, he will tweak something in his 6-foot, 226-pound body. It’s not his fault, nor does he probably realize, inevitable comparisons are made to former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Bob Sanders. When Sanders could play for the Colts, he was ferocious. But injuries inevitably dogged him and he never enjoyed the longevity typically attached to greatness.

Landry made the 2012 Pro Bowl. He has talent. But when a guy has his kind of ability, more is expected, from fans and his employer. In his first season after signing a four-year, $24-million deal with the Colts, he started strong with 15 tackles in the opener. He had 11 in his next start, but then his body betrayed him. He sat four games with a high ankle sprain.

He wasn’t the same after that. He finished with 87 tackles in the regular season and 15 more in two playoff games, but a lasting postseason image was his failure to stop New England running back LeGarrette Blount on a 73-yard TD run that broke open a 43-22 Patriots win.

“Just be there 16 games, that’s all,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said, when asked the next step for Landry this season. “That’s his mindset. It’s our mindset as a coaching staff. Easier said than done when you play the game at the rate of speed that the guy plays at.

“It’s a tough game, and there’s going to be stuff that happens. He’s growing from a communication standpoint. He knows the defense better going into year two, all that stuff.”

Then Pagano talked tough, revealing his previous words were the wind-up to a bottom line.

“He’s got to be an enforcer back there,” the coach said. “He’s got to be a dominant, dominant football player, which he’s done and will continue to do.”

Landry said he knew it would take time to get his body ready for this season. He seemed to shrug off missing time as an occupational hazard and praised the Colts’ training staff for doing a great job to get him ready.

The Colts are still deciding who will join Landry on that back line at safety. Delano Howell’s neck injury has opened the door for others. Veteran Mike Adams started for Howell in Saturday’s 27-26 home preseason loss to the New York Giants. Adams is expected to start again Saturday when the New Orleans Saints visit Lucas Oil Stadium.

Landry doesn’t concern himself with which safety spot he plays, free or strong. He considers them interchangeable. He’s focused on how he plays, the details, tackling, pass coverage, communicating with teammates.

“I touch up on everything,” he said. “There’s never enough that you can work on. There’s not one key thing that I can say, ‘This is what I need to do better.’ I brush up on everything.”

And he says he doesn’t pay attention to lofty expectations of him from others.

“I never have any pressure like that,” he said. “I don’t feel any pressure like that as far as my role. I come in each and every day to try and lead by example. I’m my toughest critic. I’m the hardest on myself so it’s never good enough for me.

“It’s never perfect. Nobody is perfect but God. You can fall short and be great, so that’s the only thing I’m focused on.”

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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