ANDERSON, Ind. — At quick glance, looking at the start of last year’s training camp and then the beginning of this week’s workouts at Anderson University, nothing has changed for Khaled Holmes.
He began 2014 as the Indianapolis Colts’ starting center. He’s getting most of the reps with the first team now.
But that couldn’t be more misleading.
Seemingly from day one, nothing has gone as expected for the 2013 four-round draft choice out of Southern California. And last season stuck to that unpredictable trend.
Holmes suffered a high ankle sprain in the preseason opener. A starter became a forgotten man. It’s fair to say he wasn’t part of the team’s plans when waiver claim A.Q. Shipley started the regular season, then undrafted rookie Jonotthan Harrison handled the job for 10 weeks.
“I think that’s kind of the beauty of the league, you know?” Holmes said. “You don’t know. You just have to be prepared for everything, on the field, off the field, and take care of what you can control.”
When Harrison hit the “rookie wall” late last season, Holmes made the first two NFL starts of his career. Then he started all three playoff games. He’s played 11 games, counting the playoffs, in two years.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano praised the center for continuing to work hard to earn another opportunity. Holmes says his confidence has soared from that playing time.
“To get those games under my belt was a great experience,” Holmes said.
A return to camp meant Holmes and Harrison competing for the starting job. Both players are of similar size — Holmes is listed at 6-3 and 309 while Harrison is 6-4 and 308. Who will win the job is anyone’s guess. And last year reminded anything can happen from week to week.
“The main goal for myself, especially with the tumultuous first couple of years I’ve had, I’m focusing on just competing and earning a spot and establishing myself as a quality player in this league and earning respect and then you go from there,” Holmes said Wednesday.
Quarterback Andrew Luck said he prepares to play with both guys.
“I think we do a great job in making sure that multiple guys, not just Khaled (Holmes), ‘Harry’ (Jonotthan Harrison) are prepared to go in and play center in a game,” Luck said. “That’s with snaps. That’s with reps. That’s with extra stuff. I think there are multiple guys that can play. I think it makes a difference when you can get infinite amount of reps with guys in a sense.”
Pagano said the position will be evaluated on a daily basis. So the competition is going to continue. And after what happened to Holmes last year, when he got hurt in early August, the center realizes the job won’t be his unless he plays well.
“Just like any other position, they are out there grinding away,” Pagano said on Monday “Khaled (Holmes) is working with the first unit right now, that’s no mystery. Jon (Jonotthan Harrison) is working with the second unit. You always have to have contingency plans, so we have some other guys taking some snaps. We’re trying to develop everybody on this football team. We have a 90-man roster right now, so we have to develop everybody.
“We’re taking time out to double up, if you will, and get the young guys as many reps and more reps as we can. There are guys like David Arkin that move in there and you have a rookie in there at times doing it. But, basically, Khaled has been taking the first team snaps right now. Jon is taking the second team snaps. We’ll work Jon in some with the first team unit. He’ll get some meaningful snaps with the first group. We’re going to evaluate it on a daily basis and try to get them prepared and ready to go for that first preseason game and then see where we are at.”
In other words, stay tuned.
Holmes doesn’t seem to be the least bit affected. Forgotten man? Shrug. Now he’s starting? Shrug again.
The big man’s voice is almost a whisper when he says he’ll just keep working hard and see what happens. And Holmes adds that he truly appreciates the big picture, just being in the moment.
“The whole time, I’ve always appreciated the overall circumstances, how fortunate I am,” he said. “I really feel I’ve just grown from the last couple of years and developed as a player, as a man. It’s all contributed to moving forward.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.