Federkeil Taking Advantage of Chance to Work at First-Team Guard
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – The frustration has passed for Dan Federkeil. So has the waiting.
Federkeil, a third-year veteran offensive lineman for the Colts, had plenty of both in the last two seasons, first waiting for an opunity, then experiencing the frustration last season of having his chance disappear because of a season-ending injury.
Because now, with starter Ryan Lilja out of training camp with a knee injury, Federkeil – a valued reserve the past two seasons who signed with the Colts as free agent in 2006 – is working with the starters at right guard.
It's the opportunity Federkeil wanted the last two years.
And for now, he said he's not waiting anymore.
"It's a great opportunity for improvement," Federkeil said recently at Colts 2008 Training Camp, which continued Monday with a pair of practices at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
"I think I've improved a lot so far, but I also know I have a ways to go. If I get comfortable with where I'm at, things are going to go downhill. I can't let that happen. There are so many guys who would love to have this shot. It's one of those things where if you're in there, you want to be in there. Otherwise, you don't want to play the game."
Federkeil (6-feet-6, 290 pounds), a native of Medicine Hat, Alberta (Can.), played defensive line collegiately at Calgary, switching to offensive line upon joining the Colts.
Since then, he has developed into a solid, versatile reserve, spending much of 2006 on the Colts' practice squad, then playing in two regular-season games and a postseason game in 2006 and eight regular-season games last season.
"Dan is a guy who has been around," Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said. "He hasn't played that much, but (Colts offensive line coach) Howard (Mudd) has liked him from Day One. He has been able to play four line spots for us and because he has been around he knows what we're doing and that's a big plus.
"We're hoping he can turn into one of those versatility guys who ends up being a guy who plugs in and plays a lot of places."
The road to opportunity was a long one for Federkeil, beginning when he joined the Colts.
The Colts liked what they saw from Federkeil as an offensive lineman from the beginning, which Federkeil said was great – except that he never had played the position.
"There have been a lot of guys who have asked, 'How hard has it been?''' Federkeil said. "I kind of have to shrug my shoulders, because when I got here, they switched positions on me. I had never played offensive line. It was starting from Square One again, so I didn't really have the experience to say, 'The defensive line is much harder to block.'''
After making the roster in training camp last season, Federkeil was active for the first eight games, but during a midseason stretch when a slew of injuries hit the offensive line, he sustained a concussion. He missed the next four games, then was placed on injured reserve on December 5.
"I had some missed opportunities last year," Federkeil said. "I missed out on three full games of playing time. I had the extra time off there to think about some things, to set my priorities.
"Now, coming in, Lilja's hurt. He will be back, but for now, I have the opportunity to step up and show what I can do with the first group."
Said Dungy, "I know it was disappointing to him that he wasn't able to play when we needed him to. He had kind of trained himself for that and he knew we needed him and he wasn't able to go. That was difficult for him mentally, but I think it has just steeled his approach.
"He really looked forward to this camp and he has done well."
Federkeil said being ready for this year's camp didn't come easily mentally. He said for two or three weeks last season after his injury, "I was pretty down.
"I wasn't a fan of anybody at the time," he said.
But now, he said, with the waiting and frustration over, he said he is focused on taking advantage of the opportunity he has wanted for the past two seasons.
"It really took until the week after minicamp (in May) for me to get my head right and back in the game," Federkeil said. "Taking reps with (center) Jeff (Saturday) and (quarterbacks Jim) Sorgi and Peyton (Manning) in summer school helped a lot, to get used to everything. I'm more involved and more comfortable with the style. As a whole, that's going to help our offensive line no matter who's out there.
"I feel pretty good. I'm still making a couple of mental errors here and there I need to clean up. I think once I get those down, I'll be fairly solid. I just have to keep improving from there."