Foster, Colts Defensive Line Must Step Up in Johnson's Absence, Players Say
INDIANAPOLIS – Eric Foster didn't want his opunity this way.
But now that it has come, now that the circumstances of the week have made it likely that Foster – a rookie free-agent defensive tackle – will make his first NFL start Sunday, he said what he must do is obvious.
He must forget about the circumstances and do what any NFL players must do.
He must take advantage of the opportunity.
And he must perform when needed.
"Any opportunity you get, you need to go out there and show the world what you've got," Foster said Thursday as the Colts (0-1) prepared to play the Minnesota Vikings (0-1) at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minn., Sunday at 1 p.m.
"You have to take advantage of it. What happened happened. . . . I just want to keep getting better every day, make sure I'm ready to go."
The state of the Colts' defensive tackle position became a focus on Thursday, a day after Colts President Bill Polian announced that second-year defensive tackle Ed Johnson – a starting tackle for the last 17 games – would be waived following a Tuesday arrest for speeding and marijuana possession.
Foster, who signed as a free-agent from Rutgers University shortly after this past April's NFL Draft, likely will start at tackle alongside second-year veteran Keyunta Dawson, Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said Wednesday.
Veteran ends Raheem Brock and Josh Thomas also could contribute inside, Dungy said, and the Colts – who recently added defensive tackle Daniel Muir off waivers from Green Bay – also Thursday signed defensive tackle LaJuan Ramsey.
Ramsey (6-feet-3, 300 pounds), originally a sixth-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft by Philadelphia, played two seasons with the Eagles, playing in 15 games and recording 18 tackles – nine each in 2006 and 2007. He played collegiately at the University of Southern California and spent time this year with San Francisco.
"We'll adjust and be fine," Dungy said.
Veteran Darrell Reid has played mostly as a reserve at tackle the past three seasons.
"It's going to be a tight rotation at defensive tackle," Reid said.
"It's just a tough situation for all of us," Brock said. "We just have to make some adjustments. We've got some young guys who will help us out, but the train has to keep moving. We're affected – tremendously.
"Ed is a big part of this team. But we have to follow the rules. That's what it is, obviously."
That he will be first in the rotation is a situation for which he is ready, Foster said.
Foster (6-feet-2, 265), the first Rutgers player to earn All-America honors in consecutive seasons, started 26 games in his last two collegiate seasons. He impressed Colts coaches immediately in minicamps and throughout the offseason.
"I've been preparing for this," Foster said. "Call my number, and I'll be ready. That's one thing I don't like to be. I don't like to be unprepared."
Brock, who played tackle the past two seasons before moving back to end this season, said while he prefers to stay at end, he will play tackle if necessary.
"If it happens like that, that's what I've got to do," Brock said. "I don't mind. Whatever we have to do to win. If I have to go back inside, I'll do that. We have to win some games. We lost our first game. We're working on Minnesota now and that's out main focus. We have to win this game this weekend.
"We have a nice little rotation. If they need me to come in there, I'll help out. We're still a team. We're trying to get a win."
Said Dungy, "Nobody looks forward to it, but that's what you have to do in these kinds of situations. You have to be able to make things happen. We've had a lot tougher situations than this. We went to San Diego last year with not very many players, and Tampa (last season).
"We've had quite a few of these situations. Usually, the guys step up."
Dungy said he addressed the team regarding Johnson's release Thursday morning.
"We're kind of a family here," Dungy said. "We had a family member that had a tough time. We had to make a decision what to do. I did tell them what went into our thought process and why. Then, we can put it behind us and move forward.
"We have a lot of guys in the locker room, a lot of people on the staff, who are close to Ed. You hate to miss any guys, but that's where we are. Now, we're just going to move forward."
Dungy, while declining to discuss specifics of what he told the team, said, "First of all, we don't want any arrests, any misconduct. But we evaluate every situation and the totality of it and make decisions.
"That's what we did with Ed's," Dungy said. "I explained some of the things to the team that went into it that probably are best left within the team. Not that they were going to dispute anything. I just wanted them to have the information."
Dungy said the idea behind waiving Johnson was not necessarily to "send a message" to players.
"If there was a message sent, hopefully it was sent to our players and anybody who pays attention to us that that's what we're about," Dungy said. "We don't want those types of distractions. We don't want those types of things. Again, it was an individual decision, but we've always talked about the way we're going to carry ourselves, the way we're going to handle things.
"It wasn't done with the idea of sending a message, but if there was a message sent, I think it was a good one. . . .
"I personally think we've got young kids who watch our players and I think we need to send the right type of message and be the right type of role models. Are there going to situations come up that you wish wouldn't happen? Sure there are. But we'll make the decisions based on the totality of everything that goes into the incident. We made a decision that this was best for our football team right now.
"Hopefully, nothing else comes up, but if it does, we'll go through the process the same way."
Colts players on Thursday said while they were surprised by the news of Johnson's release and that they hurt for a former teammate, they also said they understood the move.
"Obviously, for the Colts family, it hurts," Reid said. "It's something that we have to deal with, and we have to continue to move on and continue playing regardless. We've had things around here that have happened. We've lost guys before. We're just going to have to make up for it.
"Whether it's with the guys we have now or whether they try to bring some guys in, we're going to get the job done, regardless."
Said wide receiver Reggie Wayne, "You just know the type of organization you have and the way you want it run. You look at Coach Dungy and how he's such a clean guy, you just don't want that kind of stuff around.
"You don't normally see that around here, so when it does happen you do have to make a statement. I guess that's what they did."