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Colts offensive line coach Howard Mudd said around this time of the offseason, he usually has a good idea of the potential of next season's unit. This year, he said, the decisions likely to be necessary in late August won't be easy.


Colts Offensive Line Faces Positive Dilemma, Mudd Says

INDIANAPOLIS – So far, Howard Mudd likes what he sees.

And actually, he likes it very much.

Mudd, entering his 11th season as the Colts' offensive line coach, said around this time of the offseason, he usually has a good idea of the potential of next season's unit. This year, he said, he is beginning to get a general idea that the decisions made near the end of August won't be easy.

And he said he means that in the best way possible.

"This camp here has given me a little better idea who the real players are," Mudd said during the team's organized team activities, 14 days of on-field workouts at the team's practice facility that are scheduled to conclude Thursday.

"Usually about this time you know the guys who are probably going to make the team. We have a nice problem, because we have too many."

A primary focus of Mudd's in recent weeks:

A draft class with a heavier offensive line flavor than in any of his previous 10 seasons with the team.

The Colts selected three offensive linemen – guard Mike Pollak (second round), center Steve Justice (sixth) and guard Jamey Richard (seventh) – in the 2008 NFL Draft, the most offensive linemen the team has drafted in one offseason since Mudd's 1998 arrival.

The selection of Pollak also marked the earliest the Colts had selected a lineman during his tenure.

"I like them," Mudd said of the trio. "They're about what we thought they were when we drafted them. I don't know that they're real happy with where they are right now. They'd like to be able to do everything a lot better, but if that was the case, we'd have had to draft them a lot sooner than we did.

"But I'm very encouraged. They are exactly what we thought they'd be."

Pollak, who played center at Arizona State, is expected to compete for a starting job at right guard, a position where Jake Scott started from 2004-2007 before signing with the Tennessee Titans as an unrestricted free agent this past March.

"It's still a long process, but a little bit of the butterflies have subsided," Pollak said. "I'm coming in every day and working hard and I want to keep learning from the veterans."

Pollak said his challenge during OTAs has been as much mental as physical, something he said he expected.

"Right now, you're trying to get down techniques and assignments," Pollak said. "When the pads come on, the game speeds up again. That's the biggest key, so when it's time to put the pads on you know what you're doing, so you can fly around 100 percent.

"I knew coming in that (Colts quarterback) Peyton Manning's offense was going to be a complicated one. That goes to show you why they're one of the best teams in the league every year. It's kind of what I expected, but it is a lot of work, too, studying every day."

Said Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy, "Mike is doing fine. He's doing what you should do at this point. He's grasping everything. He's with Howard and (assistant offensive line coach) Pete (Metzelaars). He's asking questions, doing all the right things. He's doing just fine. He's right on schedule.

"That's what we're really trying to do, is just get him comfortable. There are different techniques than he's used to, some different thought processes. What happens is you're trying to do everything exactly the way the coaches want you to. You're trying to be up on things and you're not able to always let your ability show.

"We've told all of these guys, 'That's going to happen. We know that you'll get your swing back, so don't get alarmed by it.'''

Mudd said the OTAs are critical for all of the team's young linemen, the goal being to have them prepared for training camp, which is scheduled to open at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind., in late July.

"It is a good time to get a good feeling of what a rookie or what a new player can do for you," Mudd said. "I think that's real valuable for us. How quickly do they assimilate the techniques and fundamentals? There's an instinct that comes when you really know what the coach is asking from you, then you can apply it in the game."

And whatever a young player's progress now, Mudd said it is imant to remember – and for the players to remember – the time that matters is still nearly two months away.

"Some people have an aptitude to learn stuff quickly," Mudd said. "We have to be careful not to make up our minds that, 'Oh, this guy has made the team or he hasn't made the team.' It's still June or May. You can make up your mind too soon and have a negative opinion and you should not. Let the process take its course and be patient."

As for the rookies being generally dissatisfied with their progress, Mudd said there likely is a lot of good to be taken from that.

"If they were pleased with where they were, we probably don't want them," he said. "You can't have a player being satisfied with where they are."

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