Lilja: It's Not Fun to Sit Out

Perhaps no Colt has had a tougher time lately than offensive guard Ryan Lilja. Since signing a lucrative contract with Indianapolis, he's endured three knee surgeries and had to watch the entire 2008 season from the sidelines as the Colts struggled mightily in the running game. Lilja sat down with the media recently to talk about the frustration of his injury and his hopes for the upcoming season.

On how he feels:

"I'm feeling better. It's been a long year and had a lot of ups and downs, but we're starting to improve, and it couldn't come at a better time. I haven't felt this good in a year-and-a-half so I'm excited."

On the frustration he felt not being able to play last season:

"It's been tough. You hear guys talk about injuries in the game, and it's the toughest part about this business. I saw it first hand. It's not fun to sit out and watch your teammates practice or play in games. I haven't played in the new stadium yet. It's very frustrating. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy."

On the injury giving him a different outlook on football:

"I've come to grips with what can happen after football. I've done a lot of soul searching. You don't take it for granted anymore, and maybe I did before. I learned my lesson. I'm having a blast out there just running around practicing, getting in the huddle and hitting guys and moving around. It's 10 times better than sitting in an ice tub or working with the therapist on your knee all day."

On watching the offensive line struggle last year and not being able to help:

"It's tough. It's tough even if you're winning because you want to be a part of that. When you're losing and you know you can help out-and we weren't running the ball very well, obviously, last year-it's just not fun to know that you're not out there doing your job and earning your paycheck. Hopefully, that was the end of it for me and I can start getting back on the field and working again."

On how much he thinks his return can help the offensive line:

"I don't know if it has anything to do with me as much as the continuity and being out there with the guys. You have the communication, and you saw a lot of guys get shuffled in and out last year and that's tough. Young guys coming in and out and a lot of injuries, that's tough. Unless you play the position you don't really understand how much continuity has to do with the success of the unit and the offense. I think we had a lot of guys come in and play pretty well last year. I played next to (center) Jeff (Saturday) for a while and a season with (left tackle) Tony (Ugoh). I'm looking forward to seeing if I can make a difference."

On people questioning Tony Ugoh's toughness:

"There's no question he has the toughness and the mentality. Nobody works harder than he does. Nobody is more focused out there than he is. He has the mindset of a Jeff Saturday or Ryan Diem, a guy who is working on his craft day-in and day-out. This is only year three for Tony, but he's the first guy in, last guy out. He does all the little things right. He's physically gifted enough, and I think it's all going to come together for him this year. If he can stay healthy, and once again, that's toughest thing, but if he can stay healthy he'll have a great year."

On if he's all the way back healthy:

"This thing is for the last year-and-a-half, nobody has been able to figure it out. I can't make any guarantees or predictions and anybody that can at this point I think they are full of it. I've been getting better for the last three months, and that's all I can ask for. I don't see a reason why I'm going to stop getting better in the next six weeks. It's holding up really well. Every time we test it out it responds very well. I've been doing well lately."

On what percentage he thinks he's at:

"I don't know about percentages. I know I'm not where I need to be right now. Hopefully, I will be in six weeks. The coaches and everybody else will make that decision."

On if he thinks he'll start on PUP:

"I don't know how they are going to do it. My mindset is come August I'm going to be ready to work like every other guy in the locker room. I don't want to be a special case. I've had that going on for way too long, and I hate it. Nobody wants that. So, I don't want there to be any issues with me. Obviously, they are going to monitor how many practices and how many reps I get, but we'll let those wizards in the training room figure that out. I just want to get out there and work and do it like a normal offensive guard should."

On if he had a third procedure:

"Yes, in the middle of December. It's been several months since then. The last three-to-four months have been huge. I've gotten a lot of strength back into (my knee). You do three surgeries, and I had it dinged up the year I first had surgery so you're talking about two years without strengthening your quad. I'm a small man, and I need to be able to push off my legs. That thing shrank up on me pretty good. It takes time to get that thing built up and strong again. We've been working hard at it and we're starting to see the results."

On if he's excited that training camp is soon:

"You know what? The head trainer asked me that exact question. I told him ‘This is the first year I've ever been excited about training camp.' To be honest with you, I'm excited to have a job. I'm excited to be doing it all. I feel like a rookie again. Like I said, I don't take it for granted. It is a great opportunity to do what we do with the guys and the organization we have. (Center Jeff) Saturday and (right tackle Ryan) Diem probably think I'm crazy, but I can't wait to get in those dorms and wake up early and start practicing."

On the offensive line's mindset after the struggles the team had last year:

"Absolutely, especially the older guys who have had some success running and passing the ball. Obviously, we didn't do a very good job of that last year. Some guys are walking around with a chip on their shoulder. We're making some slight adjustments with some of the run offense. We want to get that figured out and figured out quick. We want to get it done by training camp. I think most of these guys are excited about what we're doing and excited to run the ball better."


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On how he feels:

\"I'm feeling better. It's been a long year and had a lot of ups and downs, but we're starting to improve, and it couldn't come at a better time. I haven't felt this good in a year-and-a-half so I'm excited.\"

On the frustration he felt not being able to play last season:

\"It's been tough. You hear guys talk about injuries in the game, and it's the toughest part about this business. I saw it first hand. It's not fun to sit out and watch your teammates practice or play in games. I haven't played in the new stadium yet. It's very frustrating. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.\"

On the injury giving him a different outlook on football:

\"I've come to grips with what can happen after football. I've done a lot of soul searching. You don't take it for granted anymore, and maybe I did before. I learned my lesson. I'm having a blast out there just running around practicing, getting in the huddle and hitting guys and moving around. It's 10 times better than sitting in an ice tub or working with the therapist on your knee all day.\"

On watching the offensive line struggle last year and not being able to help:

\"It's tough. It's tough even if you're winning because you want to be a part of that. When you're losing and you know you can help out-and we weren't running the ball very well, obviously, last year-it's just not fun to know that you're not out there doing your job and earning your paycheck. Hopefully, that was the end of it for me and I can start getting back on the field and working again.\"

On how much he thinks his return can help the offensive line:

\"I don't know if it has anything to do with me as much as the continuity and being out there with the guys. You have the communication, and you saw a lot of guys get shuffled in and out last year and that's tough. Young guys coming in and out and a lot of injuries, that's tough. Unless you play the position you don't really understand how much continuity has to do with the success of the unit and the offense. I think we had a lot of guys come in and play pretty well last year. I played next to (center) Jeff (Saturday) for a while and a season with (left tackle) Tony (Ugoh). I'm looking forward to seeing if I can make a difference.\"

On people questioning Tony Ugoh's toughness:

\"There's no question he has the toughness and the mentality. Nobody works harder than he does. Nobody is more focused out there than he is. He has the mindset of a Jeff Saturday or Ryan Diem, a guy who is working on his craft day-in and day-out. This is only year three for Tony, but he's the first guy in, last guy out. He does all the little things right. He's physically gifted enough, and I think it's all going to come together for him this year. If he can stay healthy, and once again, that's toughest thing, but if he can stay healthy he'll have a great year.\"

On if he's all the way back healthy:

\"This thing is for the last year-and-a-half, nobody has been able to figure it out. I can't make any guarantees or predictions and anybody that can at this point I think they are full of it. I've been getting better for the last three months, and that's all I can ask for. I don't see a reason why I'm going to stop getting better in the next six weeks. It's holding up really well. Every time we test it out it responds very well. I've been doing well lately.\"

On what percentage he thinks he's at:

\"I don't know about percentages. I know I'm not where I need to be right now. Hopefully, I will be in six weeks. The coaches and everybody else will make that decision.\"

On if he thinks he'll start on PUP:

\"I don't know how they are going to do it. My mindset is come August I'm going to be ready to work like every other guy in the locker room. I don't want to be a special case. I've had that going on for way too long, and I hate it. Nobody wants that. So, I don't want there to be any issues with me. Obviously, they are going to monitor how many practices and how many reps I get, but we'll let those wizards in the training room figure that out. I just want to get out there and work and do it like a normal offensive guard should.\"

On if he had a third procedure:

\"Yes, in the middle of December. It's been several months since then. The last three-to-four months have been huge. I've gotten a lot of strength back into (my knee). You do three surgeries, and I had it dinged up the year I first had surgery so you're talking about two years without strengthening your quad. I'm a small man, and I need to be able to push off my legs. That thing shrank up on me pretty good. It takes time to get that thing built up and strong again. We've been working hard at it and we're starting to see the results.\"

On if he's excited that training camp is soon:

\"You know what? The head trainer asked me that exact question. I told him ‘This is the first year I've ever been excited about training camp.' To be honest with you, I'm excited to have a job. I'm excited to be doing it all. I feel like a rookie again. Like I said, I don't take it for granted. It is a great opportunity to do what we do with the guys and the organization we have. (Center Jeff) Saturday and (right tackle Ryan) Diem probably think I'm crazy, but I can't wait to get in those dorms and wake up early and start practicing.\"

On the offensive line's mindset after the struggles the team had last year:

\"Absolutely, especially the older guys who have had some success running and passing the ball. Obviously, we didn't do a very good job of that last year. Some guys are walking around with a chip on their shoulder. We're making some slight adjustments with some of the run offense. We want to get that figured out and figured out quick. We want to get it done by training camp. I think most of these guys are excited about what we're doing and excited to run the ball better.\"


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