INDIANAPOLIS – Attrition along the offensive line has been the unfortunate theme for the Colts through the first seven games of the 2011 season.
The offensive tackle positions have received the brunt of the ailments with rookie offensive tackle Ben Ijalana being placed on injured reserve and Anthony Castonzo having missed the past three games with an ankle injury.
After Sunday's 62-7 loss to the New Orleans Saints, the interior of the line is now feeling the effects of the injuries with guard Joe Reitz out after having arthroscopic knee surgery. Reitz will be lost for an undetermined period. Also, guard Mike Pollak missed the Wednesday practice with a hamstring issue.
Tuesday afternoon, the Colts made the call to a pair of faces who have been in the locker room before and have started games along the offensive line in Indianapolis – tackle Michael Toudouze and guard Jamey Richard.
For Toudouze, this call is the same one he received following the Tampa Bay game. The Colts' 2006 fifth-round draft pick, Toudouze was active for the Kansas City game in week five before being cut the following week.
Toudouze was out hunting Monday afternoon when he got the call once again.
"Every time I get cut they tell me, 'Just be ready.' I know what's going on (with the offense), and I know if someone gets hurt I need to step up," Toudouze said. "You go anywhere else as a guy on the street and it takes a week or week and a half to two weeks to get their offense."
This marks the fifth time in the past three seasons that Toudouze has been signed by the Colts. After participating in the 2011 training camp in Anderson, Toudouze knew that just because he was not on the opening day roster did not mean his number would not be called during the season.
"I've been doing this for the past three years, and I know the offense and the stuff that's going on," Toudouze said. "(I) work out and try to keep mentally positive and if somebody gets hurt, I need to come in here and do what I need to do."
Richard also participated in the 2011 Colts training camp and has started 11 games in his three previous seasons with Indianapolis. A product of the University at Buffalo, Richard returned to Western New York to work out after being cut following the Houston game.
"(I've) just been working out, running, lifting," Richard said. "I got a buddy up there (in Buffalo) who owns a gym and was my college strength coach. He got me in the position to get here (originally), so I figured who better than to help me get back here."
In 2010, Richard started four games at left guard and is familiar with the Colts' offensive playbook.
"I'm sure there are adjustments to be made, but the offense is the same. It's more of just getting in there, opening up my notebook and see what I had written down. Anything we've changed, they'll tell me," Richard said. "It's been five, six weeks since I've put the pads on and gotten on the field. I'm happy to go out there and go hit."
Even with the casualties along the offensive line and a different starting quarterback in Curtis Painter, the Colts are averaging a half-yard more per carry this season. Rookie running back Delone Carter is fifth among NFL rookie rushers with 259 yards. He is coming off a career-high 89 yards and an 8.9 rushing average against New Orleans.
Sunday's game against Tennessee will mark the fifth different starting group for the offensive line in 2011, a total that exceeds what was used in an injury-marred 2010 season.
Versatility has been a must for Colts offensive linemen this season, and left tackle Jeff Linkenbach is a perfect example. Last season, Linkenbach started three games at right guard and one at left tackle. For the past three weeks, he has started at left tackle and is one of only three linemen to have started each game in 2011. That number will be pared to two with Reitz being out this Sunday.
In such a short notice, Linkenbach said having guys that know the offense can speed up the normal adjustment period for newcomers.
"They (Richard and Toudouze) all have history in the same system and know all the calls," Linkenbach said. "It's nice to have that kind of new blood that knows everything."