Mike Pollak, Jamey Richard Ready to Contribute at Center
ANDERSON, Ind. – Mike Pollak has heard it for two years.
So has Jamey Richard.
Pollak and Richard, a pair of interior offensive linemen for the Colts, have heard the same thing every player around the team hears on a continual basis – that when a starter can't play, no drop off is expected, and that the next player must play and play well.
It's "Next Man Up," and it's a fundamental belief around the Colts.
And with Colts center Jeff Saturday undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday, Pollak – a third-year veteran from Arizona State – and Richard, a third-year veteran from Buffalo, each said the approach now is obvious.
"They emphasize big-time that the next guy has to step up," Pollak said Wednesday between a pair of practices at 2010 Colts Training Camp at Anderson University. "We're really trying to take that to heart."
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said it's not yet determined who will start in Saturday's place at center in the preseason opener Sunday, and said no timetable has been set for the return of the four-time Pro Bowl selection.
"We're not going to place any limitations on him," Caldwell said. "I haven't heard any specifics in that regard from the doctor. He's always been a quick healer.
"Whenever he's back and healthy and ready to go we'll get him back in there."
The Colts emphasize versatility on the offensive line, with most players on the line – particularly on the interior – able to play multiple positions. That, Caldwell said, is something that has helped the line and other areas of the team handle such situations in the past.
Caldwell said quality depth often is developed when reserves play for starters, and he said there's no reason to think that can't occur on the interior of the line in the coming weeks.
"One of the things that I think camp is for is to develop some cohesion and unity in a number of different spots," Caldwell said. "It does indeed make you work on a different angle, but for the most part I think we've been here before.
"It's not unusual, but it will give some guys who haven't had the opunity to get a lot of reps, a few more reps in the next span of time."
Richard started four games at center in place of Saturday during his 2008 rookie season.
"We have a lot of options, but that's one of the options who will play center for us," Caldwell said of Richard. "He's been in there before. He knows the position. But obviously, Mike knows it as well.
"We have some pretty good flexibility there."
Pollak and Richard each spoke Wednesday of Saturday's importance, and said what's most important now isn't necessarily who will play where Sunday, but being ready where each player is needed.
"That's still a mystery, but you know what? Wherever I'm playing, I'm going to go out and do my job," Pollak said.
Richard said working at each interior line position, something most of the Colts' interior offensive linemen did regularly under longtime offensive line coach Howard Mudd and continue to do under current line coach Pete Metzelaars, is critical in such situations.
"We do a good job preparing for it, with a lot of guys playing multiple spots," Richard said. "It's a good opportunity for guys to get better, to play different spots. It helps us get ready for situations like this."
Said Pollak, "We don't know where we're playing day in, day out. Wherever they have us play each game, we have to go in and do our job."
Saturday, a Pro Bowl selection in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009, has started at center for the Colts since 2000, and has missed just six games in that span – two in 2004 and four in 2008.
"Jeff is the big leader on the line, and when he's absent, other guys have to step it up and take his place," Pollak said.
While Richard has started both positions in the NFL, starting four games at center and three at guard as a rookie, Pollak's NFL starting experience has been solely at guard. A second-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, he started 13 games at right guard as a rookie, then began last season starting there before moving to a backup role behind starter Kyle DeVan.
Pollak played center throughout his career at Arizona State, starting 26 games there in his last two seasons and earning first-team All-Pac 10 honors as a senior.
"I feel like going back to center, I'm comfortable there, because I played my college career there," Pollak said. "But I also feel like I have guard down. I've been there since I've been here, and I feel like I finally have gotten comfortable in that position, too. . . .
"It's been different because I haven't really worked there since college, but it's like riding a bike to me."
Pollak said there certainly is a difference between guard and center.
"You don't really understand how much the center does, in organizing the play from the line," Pollak said. "The guard is more technique. . . . I really don't know where I'm going to be come Sunday, so I'm going to get in my (play) book, so wherever they have me play I'm ready to go."
Caldwell said whoever plays center Sunday, "I'm anticipating that our culture will remain the same."
"Obviously, he (Saturday) is a very important part of our team," Caldwell said. "He's been around a long time. He's got a lot of knowledge and expertise, but I think (in) 2008 we had to play without him as well and Jamey Richard stepped in and did a good job.
"We'll be happy to get him back, but right now we have to get ready to move forward."