Richard Likely to Start at Center in Regular-Season Opener, Dungy Says
INDIANAPOLIS – Jamey Richard said he's ready.
And Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said if indeed the rookie center from the University at Buffalo must be ready Sunday night to make his first NFL start, he has no doubt Richard will play well – even considering the circumstances:
A national television audience.
A Pro Bowl quarterback behind him.
The first game in a new, state-of-the-art, retractable-roof stadium.
Richard, a seventh-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft from Buffalo University, likely will start for the Colts at center in Sunday's regular-season opener in place of three-time Pro Bowl selection Jeff Saturday, Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said early Wednesday afternoon.
Richard on Wednesday said he didn't know if he will start.
But he said if he does, his confidence is high.
"I'm ready," Richard said Wednesday as the Colts (13-3 last season), the five-time defending AFC South champions, prepared to play the Chicago Bears (7-9) in the first regular-season game at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday at 8 p.m.
"We have a couple more days of practice. We just have to go out there and keep preparing. If we get to that point where I am in the game, I think I just have to keep thinking about playing football – just don't think about anything different.
"There have been different stadiums and things like that throughout my career. Just be ready to go – that's all I can do."
Dungy said Richard and rookie center Steve Justice will work at the position at practice this week.
"We'll see how he and Steve do and we'll go from there," Dungy said.
Saturday, a Pro Bowl selection the past three seasons, sustained a knee injury in the Colts' fourth preseason game on August 24, and Dungy said he will miss at least Sunday night's opener.
"He's feeling pretty chipper and walking around well and rehabbing," Dungy said. "It's kind of hard to say, but we'll take it week to week and we'll see how it goes. He's definitely not playing this week and we'll see from there."
Dungy also said rookie guard Mike Pollak – who, like Saturday, sustained a knee injury during the preseason – won't be able to play Sunday. Dungy said those are the only two players on the Colts' active roster currently unavailable.
"Beyond that, I don't think we have anybody physically limited," Dungy said.
The Colts on Saturday placed offensive guard Ryan Lilja and linebacker Tyjuan Hagler on the Physically Unable to Perform List, meaning they cannot be activated until the sixth week of the season.
With Lilja and Saturday out, Dungy said the starting lineup of the Colts' offensive line on Sunday likely will be veteran Charlie Johnson at right guard, Richard at center and veteran Dan Federkeil at left guard.
Johnson, a fifth-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft from Oklahoma State, started one game at tackle in 2006 and 10 games at tackle – five games each at right and left – last season. He worked with Pollak at guard throughout the preseason.
Federkeil, who originally signed with the Colts as a rookie free agent in 2006, spent time on the Colts' practice squad that season and was active for two games in 2006 and eight games last season. Sunday would be his first NFL start.
Richard (6-feet-5, 295), who started at Buffalo the past three seasons, did not start a preseason game for the Colts and played as a reserve in the first four preseason games. He did not play in the preseason finale.
"I think it's what the expectations are and for us, we've pretty much had rookies start every year somewhere," Dungy said. "Usually, if you expect them to do a good job they usually do. We're not going to really change anything. We had (running back) Joseph Addai playing a lot for us and playing a big role his rookie year (in 2006) and we've had other situations that way. (Defensive tackle Anthony) "Booger" McFarland got hurt last year and (then-rookie) Ed Johnson started and played and played pretty well.
"We didn't really change anything or do anything different. You just have to have confidence in the guys you have. That's why you have 53-man teams and whoever the center is will do a good job."
Justice, a sixth-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, played the entire game at center in the Colts' final preseason game last Thursday, and he and Richard have worked extensively at the spot in practice, Dungy said.
Dungy said the decision to likely start Richard came from "just looking at everything, looking at the way practice has gone and also looking at what's best and who can back up. One guy's going to have to start at center and one guy's going to have to be the backup at the other two insides spots.
"They both played center and they both played guard," Dungy said. "We'll see how it goes, but that's kind of our plan right now, that Jamie would be the center and Steve's going to work at both guards."