INDIANAPOLIS — Offensive linemen are supposed to play through injuries. They're supposed to be the toughest guys on the team.
Maybe that's why Matt Slauson wouldn't come off the field last Thursday night, despite the fact he was feeling a weird pain shooting down from his back into his legs.
It was early in the third quarter, and the Indianapolis Colts had some work to do if they were going to catch up to the New England Patriots.
With the Colts already feeling the effects of way too many injuries and other issues along their offensive line heading into the game, Slauson wasn't about to sit the rest of this one out.
So he pushed through. And the Colts, accordingly, caught fire, eventually getting to within a touchdown of the defending AFC champions after being down by as many as 21 points at halftime.
Indianapolis would eventually fly home with a 38-24 loss early the next morning, however, and it didn't take long to learn just what Slauson had been playing through.
The diagnosis? Two fractured vertebrae in his spine.
Slauson literally played a half of football with a broken back.
"Slauson man, he's just tough as nails," Colts head coach Frank Reich said on Wednesday.
What an accurate description for the 10-year NFL veteran, who signed with the Colts as a free agent this offseason to bring that brand of toughness, sure, but also as someone with a well-respected track record as a leader who could contribute at multiple positions up front.
But hindsight, they say, is 20/20. Slauson on Monday was placed on injured reserve, and told reporters on Wednesday that he doesn't expect to be a candidate to return to the team later in the season. He also said that he now regrets his decision to stay in the game.
It's not that he didn't want to be there for his teammates; he just didn't immediately realize the severity of his injury, especially if he had taken on another similar hit later in the game.
"It wasn't my smartest moment," Slauson said, via Fox59's Mike Chappell.
"I'm just very happy and very thankful that nothing more came of it. I get very upset at myself when I watch the film, just thinking about what could have been."
Slauson said he not only risked a career-ending injury by continuing to play against the Patriots — he easily could've been left paralyzed.
"I had no idea how close I was to changing my family's life," he told Zak Keefer of The Indianapolis Star.
What's next for Slauson? Rest — and plenty of it. But while he's not going to be in the trenches for the Colts for the remainder of the season, he still wants to be heavily involved in helping those around him continue to develop their games.
Slauson was seen at Wednesday's practice working alongside offensive line coaches Dave DeGuglielmo and Bobby Johnson during positional drills, and will continue to be a presence in the meeting room.
And as long as his back heals up the way he hopes, Slauson — a free-agent-to-be next offseason — wants to return to Indianapolis in 2019 for an 11th NFL season.
"I can't imagine playing anywhere else right now," he told Keefer.