Indianapolis Colts offensive left tackle Anthony Castonzo thought one of his first offseason training activities interviews would be routine.
Then left guard Jack Mewhort stepped in with some surprise questions.
Mewhort grabbed the microphone for colts.com and asked Castonzo off-the-wall questions about a couple of the tackle’s many hobbies, art and rock climbing.
Much like on the field, Castonzo adjusted to the surprise chat. It’s April, the time when NFL players get back together and begin preparation for a new season that still seems far off. Optimism abounds, as does some good-natured banter.
What’s worth noting about this exchange, aside from the 6-7 and 311-pound Castonzo enjoying the physical challenge of rock climbing, is that these two men represent the side of the offensive line that will return intact for 2016. The other three spots are anyone’s guess.
The Colts’ O-line has been a source of continual scrutiny in recent years, but especially last season after quarterback Andrew Luck was injured and lost for nine starts. Luck has been among the league leaders in hits taken since he joined the Colts in 2012. Backups Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst also endured punishment and were unable to finish the season due to injuries.
“I think every guy that’s here right now, I think we have eight guys here right now, I think we are all going out there trying to get better every day and improve daily mentally and physically every way that we can so that when our number is called, when we are all ready to play that any five guys that are out there can get the job done,” Castonzo said.
He signed a four-year, $43.812-million extension with $18 million guaranteed before last season. He’ll count $9.8 million against the salary cap in this first season of the new deal. That ranks third on the roster.
While the former first-round draft choice struggled at times earlier in the season, be it allowing sacks or committing penalties, he returned to form later in the year. He’s considered the anchor of an O-line that could have three new starters this season. He also has a new line coach in Joe Philbin.
“I like him a lot,” Castonzo said. “He seems like a very detail-oriented guy. He’s going to make sure that we know exactly what we are doing on every play which is great. I think his demeanor that he brings — he’s kind of a calm, cool (and) collected guy, which will be great for this group. He’s been around so I think it’s going to be a good fit for us.”
Castonzo, selected with the 22nd overall pick in 2011, has started 73 games in five seasons. The Colts are expected to add at least one if not two offensive linemen in this weekend’s NFL Draft, quite possibly as early as the 18th overall selection.
While he says player decisions are management matters, he says he’ll be ready to mentor the new blood.
“Yeah, anybody who can come in and help the team, we are excited to have them,” Castonzo said. “Whoever ends up coming in here, we’re going to welcome them and hopefully they can help the team. Anybody who can help the team is good.”
He says NFL players know what to look for in new teammates.
“You just kind of look to see if they have that it factor,” he said. “Regardless of whether or not they can do things, do it properly, if they know what is going on. Just that they kind of have that mentality that I’m going to get this done and keep working towards it. You can kind of see what kind of fight a guy has regardless of what he knows.”
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.