If anyone in the Indianapolis Colts’ locker room understands what it means to be a team player, it’s tackle/guard Joe Reitz.
As a young player, Reitz learned from O-line mainstays Jeff Saturday and Ryan Diem. They shared their knowledge on what it took to be a professional, how to work and study, take care of the body and mind, and only worry about that which a player can control.
Now it’s Reitz, among others, who impart the wisdom to the newcomers. The Colts used four draft picks on offensive linemen, which could mean one of those guys takes a job from someone like Reitz, who can play tackle or guard and has appeared in 60 games with 38 starts.
But the NFL reality of helping another who could be a replacement doesn’t change the sixth-year pro’s mindset.
“I’ve always believed it’s your responsibility as a veteran in this locker room to help the young guys along,” Reitz said recently during offseason workouts. “We’ve always done that. We’ve got a great culture here in the building. All the position groups, across the board, will help the young guys get going, get them rolling.
“Let’s face it, when we come to September and during the season, there’s going to be a lot of rookies, drafted or undrafted, that are going to help this team win ballgames.”
Reitz couldn’t be blamed for being selfish. Players want to play, first and foremost. Through the years, some players have said they would choose playing as opposed to sitting and winning a Super Bowl ring without being on the field.
“That’s a real fact of the NFL,” Reitz said. “That’s something where every year there’s going to be competition. Like I said, Jeff Saturday and Ryan Diem taught me a long time ago, hey, just control what you can control, worry about you, worry about making you the best player you can be. It will make you better, it will make the team better. Bottom line, if you’re good enough, you’ll be on the team.
“We only have so much physical and mental energy per day. If you start worrying about all these outside scenarios, what if and what about that, that’s not going to help you at all.”
Left tackle Anthony Castonzo concedes the O-line needs to be better in 2016, but he says that goal is constant. That the Colts used so many draft picks on the position was a clear message that the team expects to improve in protecting quarterback Andrew Luck as well as opening running lanes for running back Frank Gore.
A 2011 first-round draft choice, Castonzo has become the O-line anchor, its best blocker taking on the league’s elite pass rushers while protecting Luck’s blind side.
Like Reitz, he’ll offer advice to the rookies and help them prepare because it’s part of the job. And Castonzo won’t get caught up in whether someone could replace him.
“For anybody, all you can do is what you can do,” he said. “If there’s a guy coming in here who’s better than me, he’s going to play over me. That’s how it is. That’s why you’ve got to get yourself to the highest level you can be at, so that level for someone to overtake you is a little bit higher.
“It’s a constant battle with yourself.”
Castonzo said he’s excited to work with the rookies. His first piece of advice is simple.
“Work, work and just continue to work,” he said. “That’s the way you get better in this league because everybody has got the talent. What sets people apart is who’s willing to put in that work.
“We’ve got a lot of people we’ve got to bring up to speed. That’s kind of going to be what it is. I’m going to have to try and kind of take guys under my wing, and I think all the guys who have been around are going to be the same and make sure guys get up to speed and are ready to go come the season.”
Third-year guard Jack Mewhort, a former second-round pick, acknowledges the obvious about the Colts using so many draft picks on offensive linemen.
“It was obviously a position of need for us,” he said. “ Going into the draft, we only had seven guys in the room, so obviously we needed to add numbers. On top of that, competition brings the best out of everybody.
“So we’re excited, they all seem like great kids, great players, so we’re happy to have them. I was able to meet (center) Ryan Kelly when he stopped by here the day after he got drafted. He seems like a great kid, comes from a good family. He’s an Ohio guy, too. I’m happy to have them all and looking forward to meeting the rest of them and ready to rock and roll.”
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.