Brock's Experience, Versatility Crucial to Colts Defensive Line
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Raheem Brock remembers it well.
And if the memory isn't necessarily a fond one, Brock – a seven-year veteran leader who is now one of the Colts' most versatile defensive linemen – can still look back on it and laugh.
This was Brock's first training camp.
The year was 2002. Brock joined the Colts in camp at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, having been released by his hometown team, the Philadelphia Eagles, a few months after the Eagles selected him in the seventh round of that year's draft.
It was not, Brock said, exactly a promising beginning.
"Definitely not," Brock said with a laugh Tuesday between a pair of 2008 Training Camp practices at Rose-Hulman. "No way. When I first got here, I wasn't getting any reps or anything. I was doing special teams and that was it, but I worked my way up.
"It was just a blessing since I've been here. I've just got to keep working hard."
Years pass and times change.
"Time is flowing," Brock said, laughing.
Brock, after starting much of the past two seasons at tackle, this season has returned to end, the position at which he started from 2002-2005.
And he is now more than a durable, reliable starter, teammates say.
Rather, he a veteran leader whose versatility is crucial to what Brock said this week is one of the team's most talented lines in his seven seasons.
"That's imant, to have a guy who is a changeup type of guy," Colts middle linebacker and defensive captain Gary Brackett said. "He can play inside or outside. Last year, he developed into a really good three-technique (defensive tackle). After learning everything trial-by-fire his first year (2005), he really came on.
"Now, he's moving out to his natural end position. He's excited about going out there and rushing the quarterback, but we're excited because we get a big group out there. With him, (end) Josh Thomas, Big Ed (Johnson) and people in front, it increases our chance to be effective against the run and also those guys are great pass rushers."
Brock, who started 27 games at tackle over the past two seasons, said while he likely will play more end this season, he also likely will play at tackle in some passing situations. That's a return to the role he played in 2004 and 2005, when he registered a career-high 6.5 sacks each season.
"I prefer playing end," Brock said. "You can run more. It gives you more room to do things. Tackle is tough. I don't mind playing both, especially on third down – going inside to play tackle and get after the quarterback. Whatever I can do to make us better."
Brock said the experience at tackle – particularly learning interior run-defense techniques and making line calls – was invaluable.
"I learned a lot with that change, going from end to tackle," he said. "I got a lot of experience in being able to stay in control of the line and calling games and people looking up to me and having confidence in me to call those games and keep things together. That's a great feeling.
"If I had to, I'd play anywhere. As long as I'm out there having fun. Football's fun to me."
Brock in two seasons at tackle improved steadily. In 2006, he started 16 games for a fourth consecutive season and finished the regular season with 74 tackles, 15 solos, and three sacks. He also forced three fumbles, recovered three fumbles, and he finished fourth on the team with 11 quarterback pressures.
In the postseason, he had a sack, three quarterback pressures and a fumble recovery.
This past season, he started 11 games, the first time since 2002 he had not started every game. He missed five games with injuries, registering two and a half sacks, 42 tackles, four passes defensed and two fumble recoveries.
He also had 12 quarterback pressures, fourth on the team and first among defensive tackles, in the process emerging as a leader among a group of young tackles that included then-rookies Johnson, Keyunta Dawson and Quinn Pitcock.
That leadership role is one Brock said he relishes.
"Every year, we have new young guys coming in," he said. "We have to take them under our wing and get them up to speed to where we are. We're going to need them down the line. It is fun. That's part of the game, part of the business, to see these guys grow and mature like I did and go out there to be great ballplayers to help the team get to where we want to be. That's a good feeling.
"I think this is one of the best groups we've had since maybe my rookie year when me and Dwight and (Larry) Tripplett were here. They look pretty good. We learned from last year we need that depth. I got hurt and Dwight and (defensive tackle) Boog(er McFarland) and Robert (Mathis) – we had a lot of injuries.
"We need the young guys. You never know what's going to happen. They look real good and they should be able to help us this year."