Colts Guard Mike Pollak Says Competition at Position A Good Thing
INDIANAPOLIS – As Mike Pollak sees it, competition is good.
In fact, it's something he very much welcomes.
Pollak, an offensive guard for the Colts, said after the season he went through last season – a season of learning and a season of personal adversity – if playing a bigger role in 2010 means going through intense competition in the off-season, then that's what it means.
And he said this is true, too:
He learned from what he went through last season.
And he feels better and more prepared for it.
"Right now, I feel healthy and looking forward to going into this camp," Pollak said following a recent session of the Colts' 2010 organized team activities, which is scheduled to run through Friday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
Pollak (6-feet-3, 301 pounds), a second-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, currently is among seven guards on the Colts' roster, and one of two with starting experience for the team.
Kyle DeVan, who started this past season, is one of the seven along with Pollak; Jaimie Thomas, a 2009 seventh-round draft selection; Jacques McClendon, a 2010 fourth-round draft selection; Jamey Richard, a 2008 seventh-round draft selection; 2010 collegiate free-agent Gregg Peat and Andy Alleman, a third-year veteran who signed this off-season as a veteran free agent.
Tony Ugoh, who started at tackle in 2007-2008, also is in the mix, with Colts President Bill Polian saying in late April the plan along the offensive line was to essentially "put them in the pot."
"As (former offensive line coach) Howard (Mudd) used to say, you throw them all in the pot and what comes out in late August is what you have," Polian said. "We'll play the five best players. Position doesn't really mean much."
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell also said competition would be the norm.
"I think particularly on our line, I think it's going to be a very good, solid competitive situation," Caldwell said. "It's like my old high school coach would always say, 'Cream will always rise to the top,' so we'll see what happens.
"Certainly, what we're looking for is improvement. That's the key. We want to become a better unit overall, in all phases as a result of our work this spring and also in training camp as well."
Of Pollak, Caldwell said during OTAs, "He's done well. He's battled through some adversity. I think he will benefit from that, just in terms of his determination, his dedication. He is a guy that has physical tools. He has strength and size. He's very bright, and I think you'll start to see him really come along.
"He's been doing great thus far in practice. He's been handling his assignments well. It's not like he hasn't been playing at all for us. He's been around and in the system and we need him to come along.
"Right now, he is doing very well."
Pollak said while last season was difficult, he said it also can be used to his advantage.
Pollak, who played collegiately at Arizona State, started as a rookie in 2008, then began 2009 again as the starter at right guard between center Jeff Saturday and Ryan Diem.
But early in the season, he began sharing time with DeVan, who had signed as a free agent from Arena Football League 2 the previous off-season. By mid-season, DeVan was the full-time starter, and he finished the season that way.
The situation was far from easy, Pollak said.
But he also said in retrospect, it wasn't entirely negative.
"It was really the first time I had to prepare every week knowing I wasn't going to start, but I could go in any time," Pollak said. "That was different for me."
Pollak said he prepared throughout the season as if he would play, and although he spent much of the season as a backup, he said the preparation befitted him.
"I just look at it as a big learning experience," Pollak said. "It was probably the biggest adversity I've faced in my athletic career, having to come to work every day and just keep doing what I could do to improve personally. I think it's going to pay off this summer and fall."
As for exactly where he might play, Pollak said he didn't know, and said that wasn't necessarily his focus. He said he has been working with Pete Metzelaars – who took over as offensive line coach for Howard Mudd, who retired following Super Bowl XLIV – and said however the line looks next season, he'll contribute where necessary.
"I'm just going out there wherever Pete needs me, wherever I can help out the team," he said.
"I'm approaching it like it's Day One and I kind of have to reprove myself all over again. I'm looking forward to that challenge."
And while that challenge will mean competition, Pollak said that's a good thing, and saying it's a good thing doesn't mean just positive for him, but for an entire offensive line group with a goal of making a dramatic improvement from last season.
"It really is (competitive), but you know what?" Pollak said. "That's a good problem to have on your team. That depth is something we really haven't had in a while, so it's going to be good for us."