INDIANAPOLIS – Almost as soon as the final gun sounded in Baltimore last January, Ryan Grigson noted the gritty nature of an offensive line that battled relentlessly throughout the season.
He called the unit the "walking wounded."
Injuries forced the club to start its intended season-opening unit in only four games, and there were but a handful of Sundays where in-game changes were not necessitated by injuries.
Grigson sought to bolster the line this year and added components in veteran free agency and the draft.
As mini-camp opens on Tuesday, Grigson sees the unit forming through spring work.
"Leaders continue to emerge daily as this unit gels, and it is gratifying to see how focused they are as a whole," said Grigson. "They have had the right look in their eye since the first day this offseason, very businesslike.
"They know how important their job is to our success, and you can see it daily in their body language and how they conduct themselves."
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Battlers like Anthony Castonzo, Samson Satele, Jeff Linkenbach, Joe Reitz and Mike McGlynn were supplemented with additions of Gosder Cherilus, Donald Thomas, Khaled Holmes and Hugh Thornton.
Cherilus (Detroit) and Thomas (New England) provide a veteran presence, while the Colts expended third- and fourth-round picks on Thornton and Holmes.
They are among the 16 linemen prepping for mini-camp, and the entire unit represents a mixture of experience levels that will determine a large part of the club's success.
"The pads aren't on yet, but they are really coming along in a lot of different areas. That is a credit to not only their hard work and dedication, but that of the coaches that are out there pushing them every day," said Grigson. "We obviously have some good players in this group, a nice blend of youth and experience.
"Above all, I am pleased with how tight-knit this group has become in a very short time. All the great offensive lines have one common denominator and that is unity. This group has to be a family within our family that is joined at the hip and has blind faith that the guy next to him has his back at all times."
Two key pieces brought in by Grigson last year were Satele and McGlynn. Both represented the grit and integrity targeted by Grigson and Chuck Pagano.
Satele opened 11 games, but missed others because of injuries. McGlynn was one of six Colts who started every game.
Both remain key figures for 2013.
"We had and continue to have high expectations for Samson. He unfortunately was hampered by injuries for the first time in his career last year and it obviously slowed him down," said Grigson. "From what we've seen thus far we are optimistic.
"Mike is a grinder that came to work every Sunday last fall and could be counted on by the staff and his teammates to play snap-to-whistle. In one word, he is 'reliable.' "
In the second and third games last year – Minnesota and Jacksonville – McGlynn had to shift to center during action when Satele went down. He spent two-thirds of the Vikings game at center and about half of the Jacksonville contest there.
It is that kind of preparation and versatility that a line must have for a team's success.
"Mike and Samson are both working their tails off out here and their focus is obvious," said Grigson. "They both have been around it long enough to know what is expected and the level they need to play at week in/week out for us to be contenders in this league. Like the rest of the vets on the team, they are in the right mindset and setting the tone for the young guys.
"For us to be champions that mindset can't waver for even a day, and this group is so very vital to setting the tone and delivering the outcomes of games."