A Question-Answer Session with Colts Offensive Tackle Ryan Diem
Offensive right tackle Ryan Diem, a fourth-round selection by the Colts in the 2001 NFL Draft from Northern Illinois University, has started for the Colts for eight seasons, and for the past six seasons, he has been the team's starting right tackle. During that time, he has played for five AFC South championship teams and seven consecutive playoff teams. He also has been a fixture on an offensive line that has helped the Colts' offense be one of the NFL's most successful units during the past decade. This season, Diem has been the lone member of the team's line to start every game at the same position, anchoring a young group through a series of early-season injuries. Diem this week spoke with Colts.com about being a consistent presence on the line this season, the nature of being an offensive lineman and his developing role as a team leader.
Question: The Colts this season went through a rash of injuries early in the season, and included in that, was a stretch during which many players along the line were out. As a result, you're the only player on the line to start every game at the same position this season . . .
Answer: I think it's all of their responsibilities, everyone on the team, to be in the game as much as you can, health-wise. I've been fortunate – knock on wood – so far this year to stay pretty healthy and just have some minor stuff I was able to get through. I take pride in being able to play and be ready every week.
Q: Was it something you focused on, or is that not something you can really control?
A: Injuries just happen. There's no way to prevent it. The types of things I had the last couple of years are where guys fall into the back of your legs, things where you don't even see it coming. Unfortunately, that's just part of the game. Those things happen. I've been blessed this year to stay healthy and hopefully, I can continue that through the playoffs.
Q: It's the nature of the tackle position, perhaps, but you've always been a guy who plays with a lot of consistency, yet never have received a lot of recognition . . .
A: I think all offensive linemen kind of take that approach. No one's looking for the limelight. We all sort of work together as one single unit. The media attention and that kind of stuff is for the media and the fans. I'm just out there to go do my job and make sure I'm prepared for every challenge that's ahead of me.
Q: You were a fourth-round selection in the 2001 NFL Draft from Northern Illinois. Is it hard to believe this is the end of Year Eight?
A: It's amazing. I think this year has gone fast. Every year, they seem to go faster and faster. Even the off-seasons – it just snowballs into this big thing. It's amazing that it's actually the last game for the regular season already. Before you know it, we'll be working out again for next year.
Q: You're getting to that point where when you look around the locker room, there aren't too many guys who have been around longer than you . . .
A: It's strange. It's unique. From my year, you have me, (wide receiver) Reggie Wayne and (running back) Dominic Rhodes still here, then there's (center) Jeff (Saturday), quarterback (Peyton) Manning, (wide receiver) Marv(in Harrison) – there are only a handful of guys who have been here longer. It's a blessing to be able to play this long.
Q: If you think back to the 2006 offensive line, the group that started the Super Bowl, you and Jeff are the only ones starting this season. It has turned into a young group . . .
A: The age gap in our room, with (veteran guard Ryan) Lilja being out, there's Jeff at 10 (seasons), me at eight and the next closest is Charlie (Johnson) at three. He has played quite a bit and (left tackle) Tony (Ugoh) has played quite a bit in two years, but it's crazy how that gap kind of happened with guys leaving and injuries. We look forward to having Lilja back, but right now, it's a different group than we had two years ago and even last year.
Q: Have you seen progression from the other three – Charlie, Tony and rookie Mike Pollak at guard – this season?
A: Definitely. I think Tony is finishing up a pretty solid year, Pollak is coming along pretty quickly. He's picking up the offense well and starting to get the calls down and work through that stuff. His technique is coming, so I think overall, we've made good progress. We've jelled. You hear that a lot – probably too much, but we've come together as a group. We're playing a lot better as a group than we were early.
Q: Do you like that role as a leader? (Offensive line coach) Howard (Mudd) sort of depends on you veterans to sort of implement the culture of the line, of your room . . .
A: We try to bring in the young guys and put them under our wing a little bit – show them the way, and show them how we do things here. Maybe they did things differently in college, but that doesn't really matter anymore. This is how we do stuff here. This is how we approach the offseason. We try to work out at the same time. We all show up to the Wednesday runs. We do all of the little things that people don't always see, but we try to do them the right way. We try to keep that pretty consistent year to year and keep that core group of guys working out together and getting ready for the year. It carries over into the season.