INDIANAPOLIS — Jack Mewhort caught the injury bug in 2016, and couldn't really shake it.
After turning in a career year in 2015, hopes were very high for Mewhort at the left guard position last season for the Indianapolis Colts, who were itching to get back in the playoffs after missing out on the postseason the year prior.
But Mewhort's 2016 season almost never started. He suffered a knee injury in the team's third preseason game, and the immediate fear was that he had suffered a torn ACL and would miss the entire year.
Those fears were quickly diminished, however, and Mewhort would work his way back into the starting lineup by the Colts' 2016 season opener against the Detroit Lions.
But by mid-October, Mewhort was back on the injury report, this time with a triceps injury, causing him to miss three games.
Then, finally, in the Colts' Week 14 game against the Houston Texans, Mewhort suffered yet another serious knee injury — this time one that shelved him for good, and he was placed on IR and underwent surgery.
He said he's "come a long way" in the two-plus months since, and with offseason workouts still weeks away, he continues chugging ahead as he works to come back even stronger for the 2017 season.
"I'm feeling great, I'm feeling refreshed, and the way it ended for me in 2016, I kind of feel like I'm ready to get back out there and turning the page and writing new chapters," Mewhort said. "So I'm ready to go."
Mewhort said his damage done to his knee was a "common injury for offensive linemen," but just simply considers it a "bump in the road."
The key, he said, is to stay on top of his rehab each and every day.
"It's nothing that's new to me, but it's just something that you have to work through to get stronger and take it day by day," Mewhort said. "I've made a great amount of progress, and I'm feeling back to who I am."
Mewhort in 2017 is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and his offensive coordinator, Rob Chudzinski, loved what he saw out of the third-year Ohio State product last season before he was affected by his various injuries. According to Chudzinski, the fact that Mewhort has focused so much on his technique and fundamentals at the position has "allowed him to play more physical and play faster."
Mewhort, Chudzinski said, has been the classic case of a guy who is doing a lot less thinking on the field, which has allowed him to just pin his ears back and play football.
"That's something young guys a lot of times is an adjustment coming to this level and playing at this level and being able to be consistent with their techniques," Chudzinski said. "Jack has been able to do that and his technique has improved gradually and consistently to where he can play fast and he can play more physical because of it."
Aside from being healthy, Mewhort's primary goal in 2017 is to help improve the offensive line's overall play to keep quarterback Andrew Luck's jersey as clean as possible week in and week out.
The Colts' offensive line has been under the microscope at times the past couple seasons for their struggles in pass protection, but Mewhort said that outside criticism — and how his teammates and him deal with it — is nothing new. Colts offensive line coach Joe Philbin is big on accountability, and Mewhort said the only way to silence the critics is to continue improving as a unit.
"You know what? It's part of the gig. You sign up to play O-line, and the only time you're going to hear your name is if something goes haywire," Mewhort said. "And, you know, we have one of the best quarterbacks in the game, I believe — I'm a little bit biased — but I believe he's one of the greats, and it's one us to give a guy like that an opportunity to do his job and make big plays. So there are no excuses in our room, and Coach (Joe) Philbin's made that obvious to us, that it's on us; we're going to have to do our job if the offense is going to go like it's supposed to go."
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