Colts Offensive Lineman Tony Ugoh Says He's Ready to Contribute Wherever He Can in 2010
INDIANAPOLIS – The particulars aren't particularly imant to Tony Ugoh.
What he said matters is the big picture.
And the big picture is he wants to play. Whatever he's needed.
So, Ugoh said if that means working at offensive guard after a college and professional career spent mostly at tackle, then the Colts' fourth-year offensive lineman said that's what it means.
And he said he's very much OK with it.
Ugoh, a 2007 second-round selection from the University of Arkansas, said his goal in the coming season is to contribute wherever, whenever and however he can, and after what he called a "difficult season" he said he's looking forward to doing that beginning in the coming weeks.
"I told them, 'Wherever they need me,'' Ugoh said recently following a session of the Colts' 2010 organized team activities, four weeks of on-field, team-oriented activities scheduled to be held through June 11 at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
"My big thing is I want to play. I don't care where it's at. Wherever you're going to put me, put me out there, I want to play. That's what I'm focused on.
"I told them, 'Whatever the best spot for me to be is, put me there. I'm going to go at it.''
Ugoh (6-feet-5, 301 pounds), who started 11 and 12 games, respectively, at left tackle in his first two NFL seasons, moved to a backup role last season, playing 11 games and starting four.
Ugoh said playing as a reserve was difficult, and a new experience after mostly being a starter in college and in the NFL.
"That was the first year in a long time (I didn't start)," Ugoh said. "The last transition I would have faced that in was going through high school to college, going from playing to sitting on the sidelines and watching.
"It's always tough. I want to play. I love to play. That's what I want to do."
Ugoh said that's what he did, and he said mostly he focused on being as prepared as possible when needed. He started the last two games of the season when Johnson was out of the lineup resting an injury, and also started two critical regular-season victories over Tennessee.
"It was difficult," Ugoh said. "It's difficult to sit on the sideline. You love playing. That would be difficult for anybody who loves the game – to watch it instead of playing it. That would be tough for anybody, so yeah, it was a difficult year for me not playing as much as I'd like to.
"But I was there because my number could be called any time, which it was, at some point during the season. If (my number) was called, I had to be ready, and I felt like I was ready."
Colts President Bill Polian last season discussed multiple times Ugoh's ability to remain ready in a backup role.
"To Tony's credit, when he had to step in and play . . . he played pretty darned well," Polian said on his weekly radio show. "There's no reason to worry about Tony Ugoh. . . . We're very happy we have Tony Ugoh."
One thing Ugoh said hasn't changed and won't change:
His belief that he can play at a high level. He is, he said, confident and will remain that way.
"That's not going anywhere," he said. "Everybody goes through a bump in the road, whatever it is – whether it's an injury, or whatever. That was my bump. The biggest thing for me is how do I come back from that.
"I've never been one to shut anything down. I'm not shutting anything down. If anything, I'm going to work harder to get back out there."
Ugoh said recently as difficult as last season may have been, the idea moving forward is to learn from it, and improve. Toward that end, he said he has worked extensively this off-season with not only first-year offensive line coach Pete Metzelaars, but assistant offensive line coach Ron Prince.
Ugoh said he reviewed tape of himself from his first three seasons, and is working on what he said were his weaknesses.
"I've been working with Pete and with Ron on ways I can get myself better and make myself a better player," he said. "I played high a lot. That's one thing I'm working on this year, just playing with lower pad level. I just have to do the things Pete and Ron are telling me I have to do. Wherever they're going to put me, it doesn't matter to me. I'm trying to play.
"That's what my focus is, doing whatever they tell me to do to get myself better."
Which is why Ugoh said his concern isn't nearly as much where he plays in the future but how he plays, and why he's spending the coming months doing what he can to ensure that's as well as possible.
"I don't worry about where I'm at," Ugoh said. "If they tell me to go here, or they tell me to go there, that's where I'm going to go. I can't get consumed with where they put me, just knowing where to go and where they put me and working on things and getting myself better at that position."