Entering Second NFL Season, Colts OG Pollak Ready to Move to New Level
INDIANAPOLIS – Mike Pollak knows the adage, and in it, he sees a lot of truth.
Pollak, an offensive guard, has been with the Colts for a few months more than a year. That means he often has heard how NFL players typically make a big jump from their first to second season.
Pollak is entering his second season.
And definitely, he said, he can see how the adage is true.
"Your first year, you're thrown into so much," Pollak said during the Colts' recent off-season conditioning program at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
"This is your dream, getting to play in the NFL, and you're kind of just wide-eyed. You're learning a new system and meeting a new group of teammates. After that first year, you settle down and realize it's just back to what you're used to, playing ball. You get into a routine.
"Having that first year under by belt has given me so much confidence going into next season."
Pollak, a second-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft and the first player selected by the Colts in that year's draft, started 13 games as a rookie, starting every regular-season game after missing the first three with a knee injury.
He then missed the team's post-season loss in San Diego with an injury, but in between became a fixture at right guard. Still, it was those four games with injury that Pollak said bothered him.
He played injury free throughout much of his college career, and he said he never felt he played as well as he could last season.
"I had an injury at the beginning of the season that hindered my output level, so I'm expecting myself to play at a more ferocious level," Pollak said. "Some of it's playing a new position, playing right guard, but I feel like my entire football career, I've never had an injury.
"That was something that was new to me. At times, I played that way (ferociously), but the consistency of that, I'd like to improve on this season."
Ferocity, Pollak said, was something he believed his game lacked last season – and not just in his run-blocking.
"You take that to pass-blocking as well," Pollak said. "You have a sense of being in control and you're not off-control going off the wall, but you can still have that drive in pass blocking."
Pollak, who started 36 of 46 games in college, said he spent the off-season not only conditioning but watching film from last season. At times, he saw a player playing well, but he said in the off-season he saw himself doing things on film he didn't want to see again.
He said that's another way a second-year player can improve from his first season – the ability to not only see mistakes, but the knowledge of what to do to correct them. He said while he was able to correct mistakes during the season he has spent the off-season focusing on not making them at all.
"During the season, you see mistakes and kind of correct them," Pollak said. "But at that time, you didn't really know what they were talking about. Now, when we're going back over the film, going through the course of a season, you learn more as the season goes on.
"Now it's, 'OK, I know what I did wrong and I know what needs to be done.' "
Pollak said that was his focus throughout his rookie season. After being selected on the draft's first day, then moving immediately into the starting lineup, he said he felt a responsibility to perform at a high level. And he said the desire to do so led him to a decidedly business-like, serious approach.
"Whatever I'm doing, I want to be the best I can," Pollak said. "I want to put my nose to the wall. Other offensive line guys try to get me to crack smiles once in a while because I'm serious and don't say much, but I'm trying to get the job done."
Not that Pollak is humorless. Not year-round, anyway.
"During the off-season, there's more time when you can have those conversations with other guys," Pollak said. "Last season, there were high expectations of me coming in. I had high expectations of myself, so I really wanted to try to make a good first impression on everybody."
Pollak, who played center collegiately at Arizona State, said although he played only guard as a rookie he doesn't consider himself removed from the overriding philosophy of the Colts' interior offensive line. That philosophy: that there really isn't such a thing as a "guard" or a "center," rather just interchangeable parts on the interior of the line.
Asked his position, Pollak smiled.
"I say, 'Offensive line,' Pollak said. "You're expected to be able to play a couple of positions, especially at this level. One game those guys are playing center and in another game, they're playing guard. It's a lot easier than saying, 'I play guard and center' to just say, 'Offensive line.'
"I think it's just known that you're expected to be able to play more than one position here. Especially playing center, for me I'd have to know what everyone else is doing. So, when I went to guard, I kind of took that same mentality.
"When you get to this level, you have to know what the people around you are doing."