INDIANAPOLIS – This Thursday, Joe Reitz will start his second career game at left tackle, and the first one came almost exactly four years ago.
On September 3, 2009, Reitz opened on the edge for Baltimore in a preseason finale at Atlanta, hoping to elevate himself from the practice squad where he spent the previous year.
Reitz spent 2009 on the Ravens' practice squad, too, joining Indianapolis a year later. In three seasons with his hometown Colts, Reitz has opened 17 games at left guard. Now, he starting for the injured Anthony Castonzo, and Reitz says it is all about being ready.
"It's something that wherever you can fit in. As a lineman, the more versatility (you have) the better," said Reitz. "I've played the guard the last couple of years. If I can help the team out at tackle, I'm willing and able.
"I'm getting more and more comfortable playing on the outside versus the inside."
Reitz opened eight games last year at left guard, but Indianapolis signed Donald Thomas in free agency with the notion to anchor him there.
About a week into camp, Reitz started working at tackle as coaches wanted to sort out who could have multiple-position value.
The experiment was hastened when Castonzo tweaked a knee last week on the third play against Cleveland. In went Reitz, staying at left tackle for about 43 snaps.
"(We were) just still evaluating that position, still looking for a swing tackle. Joe's a big, athletic guy. (We) wanted to throw him into the mix to find out who that swing guy (will be)," said Chuck Pagano. "We want to give Joe a shot and see how he'd do out there. To this point, he's done well."
Castonzo's bruised MCL means opportunity for Reitz as decisions are made for the opening of the season. Thursday's Cincinnati game affords opportunity.
"It's another chance to go out and play. Any time you have the horseshoe on your helmet, you're excited to strap it up and play," said Reitz. "It's another chance we get before the regular season, kind of a final dress rehearsal. We have a chance to go out and get better."
Some players may have an issue with a position change after a body of work is in place. Six of his eight starts last year involved going the distance, but Reitz embodies the selfless nature of many linemen.
"Nope, not at all," said Reitz when asked if he hesitated with the camp news of a position switch. "You have to be able to be versatile. The more positions you (play), the better. Wherever I can fit in, I'll do it.
"We preach, 'Next Man Up,' around here. It's a philosophy the whole team's had. You're always one play away. You always have to be ready."
Reitz said Castonzo helped bring him along in camp, easing the transition. He was "grateful" for Castonzo's assistance because no drop off is allowed once a game starts.
"We always preach (readiness), and the standard is the same, whether you're the starter, or you're filling in, or you're switching positions," said Reitz. "You have to keep the standards the same, prepare like that and go out and play like that."
Pagano last week cited Jeff Linkenbach as a player with "four-position" value. Reitz is up for whatever coaches throw at him because versatility always has been his M.O.
"Exactly. I played tight end briefly, then played some right tackle and left guard, now left tackle. The more positions you can play helps your career and longevity," said Reitz. "Wherever I can fit in with the Colts, I'm willing and able. I still feel comfortable at guard. It's good to have the versatility to be able to play tackle and guard.
"We have a great offensive line. We have five guys who are great. Wherever I can fit in."
The line was intact all through camp until just before the Cleveland game. Mike McGlynn bruised a knee bone and missed action, then Castonzo exited early.
Indianapolis responded with a good offensive showing, and Cherilus sees no problems with Reitz at the other tackle slot.
"He's a professional. He always comes out and works hard," said Cherilus. "He lets you know you can count on him when his number's called. He'll be ready to go and will get the job done."
NEWS OF THE DAY
If guard Mike McGlynn (bruised knee bone) is out for Thursday's game, rookie Hugh Thornton should see starting duty.
Coby Fleener, Josh McNary and Kelvin Sheppard worked with the medical staff during practice. Not spotted during the media portion of work were Nathan Palmer, LaVon Brazill, Castonzo, McGlynn and Dwayne Allen.
Joe Lefeged was dressed for work, and Khaled Holmes was a participant in pre-practice work. Playing time for Holmes on Thursday is a possibility.
Anthony Castonzo addressing his knee injury said when asked if a two-week healing period is enough, "It was good news to hear it's going to be a minor thing that was not going to cut into the season. It's day-by-day. I'm hoping that will be plenty.
"My goal is to be ready for Oakland. You always do (fear the worst). When it got rolled up on, you start thinking about all the hard work you put in in the off-season. To get the news it's only going to be a short-term thing was very good."
Chuck Pagano also said he feels no need to see Ahmad Bradshaw play before the regular season opens.
PAGANO SAYS(On value of fourth preseason game)
"We're still evaluating a bunch of guys. Everybody understands and knows that following this last preseason game, 31 other teams, including ourselves, have to get down to a 53-man roster. (There's) still a lot at stake for a lot of guys from an evaluation standpoint. It's another opportunity for us to go out and get better."
FEATURED QUOTE(Anthony Castonzo on Joe Reitz's performance last week)
"He looked good. He has good feet, and he's an athlete. When you're an athletic and big, you can usually play the position well."
PREVIOUS TRIVIA QUIZ
Peyton Manning and Jeff Saturday set the NFL record with 170 starts as a quarterback-center duo. Which quarterback-center tandem held the record previously? ANSWER: Minnesota's Fran Tarkenton and Mick Tingelhoff had 160 starts together and held the record previously.
Indianapolis won 115 regular-season games from 2000-09, the NFL's winning decade in history.
Nine other organizations achieved the feat (two doing it twice). Name as many as possible.