INDIANAPOLIS – Michael Toudouze knew who was on the other line of the phone. He had gotten this call before.
As he sat and watched the Colts' 24-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night he saw two rookies he had spent training camp with go down injured.
First, it was offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo exiting in the first quarter due to an ankle injury. Then it was Castonzo's replacement, Ben Ijalana, leaving the game with a knee injury in the fourth quarter. The injury necessitated Ijalana being placed on injured reserve Wednesday afternoon.
Already without offensive guard Ryan Diem, and now down another two linemen the Colts gave their 2006 fifth-round draft pick a call Tuesday needing an offensive lineman who is familiar with the offensive system and who can step in and perform fluently.
"The past three years that's what's happened," Toudouze said in reference to the call. "People get hurt and I know the system. Nothing really has changed much. They have faith in me to call me off the street and be able to do whatever they want to do. It's not glamorous. Every year I'm sitting at home and then get that call and do what I need to do."
In 2007, Toudouze played in four games for the Colts and started his first career NFL game in 2009. It is unsure what role Toudouze will play come Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, but he is glad to be back in the Colts locker room.
"I just want to be part of the group and fill in where I need to be filled in," Toudouze said. "They're good guys, they know how to play. I just want to do what I can do. They're hurt, so we need to come in and help out. I'm the guy they call when they need somebody because I know the system and I've been here for six years and know what we need to do to win."
Versatility has been a common thing along the offensive line for the Colts, and Toudouze brings that having played both tackle spots. After spending nearly all of his previous years with Indianapolis, Toudouze will not be under the normal pressure of a free agent having to learn a new playbook in less than a week.
"It's comfortable because I do know the system," Toudouze said. "If I go anywhere else or anybody else comes in here, they don't know anything about it. They have to figure out our offense in a week. It doesn't work because our offense is that complicated."
Center Jeff Saturday has been calling the signals on the offensive line for 13 years and with all the changes the offense has been forced to make, he said the playbook has been altered just a bit.
"It's about as simple as we can get it right now," Saturday said. "There is not a ton of complicated plays going out there. We are going to play within ourselves, do it the best we can do to get first downs. We can't reduce the offense much. We have to give our play-makers opportunities to make plays."
Along with signing Toudouze, the Colts also added offensive tackle Quinn Qjinnaka on Wednesday. In his sixth NFL season, Qjinnaka has started 12 games for two different teams.
Losses along the offensive line never come at a good time, especially when the quarterback position has been going through change as well. Curtis Painter was making his first career start in place of Kerry Collins, who was injured the prior game against Pittsburgh. Collins was making his third start with the team in the Steelers outing. Painter passed for 281 yards Monday with a re-adjusted unit in front of him and knows an extra week will only make things better.
"Injuries are never fun, but I think the guys that stepped in there did a pretty good job," Painter said. "Hopefully with a week of practice and trying to catch them up, hopefully they will continue to do a good job."
Offensive tackle Mike Tepper saw his first NFL action on Monday night playing at right tackle in the final quarter. When Ijalana went down in the final quarter, Tepper's number was called leaving the Colts with only one healthy offensive lineman on the bench. With four players having limited NFL experience and playing in a hostile environment, getting everyone together along the offensive line can be challenging.
"Just getting the communication, that's difficult to do especially Monday night in Tampa," Saturday said. "Those fans were going and they were pretty loud. It's tough to pass down the calls, make sure everyone is on the same page."
Indianapolis practiced on Wednesday with the new personnel. There will be two full practices on Thursday and Friday. The learning curve varies for the new players but what is known is that a Sunday test with Kansas City lies ahead. The players are adapting and honing their craft, and working through the change to meet the challenge in a reality in the NFL.
"It's just the way it is. That's this game," Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "It would be easy to say you hope those things (injuries) wouldn't happen, but the reality is it's going to happen. What you have to do is take a look at where you are and adjust accordingly. The only thing that anybody really cares about is whether or not you win, so we have to get ourselves in the best position to do that."