Injury to Colts’ center Ryan Kelly opens door for rookie Deyshawn Bond

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Deyshawn Bond

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – This is what we’ve been reduced to with the Indianapolis Colts and their wobbly offensive line, and it was an undrafted rookie with local ties offering the insight.

The stage is yours, Deyshawn Bond.

“I’m just waiting to hear what the coaches tell us,’’ the Warren Central High School product said Friday morning. “We need somebody to do it.

“We need a center to be out there.’’

The topic was who’s in line to start at the linchpin position Sunday when the Colts open the preseason against the Detroit Lions in Lucas Oil Stadium. It might be Bond. It might be Adam Redmond.

It won’t be Ryan Kelly. The 2016 first-round draft pick and 16-game starter as a rookie is expected to miss three weeks after suffering a foot injury in Thursday’s practice.

With Kelly out, Bond worked with the No. 1 offense. Maybe his return to Lucas Oil Stadium where he played on several occasions as a prepster is as a starter, or a backup.

“I’m just doing what the coaches are telling me to do,’’ he said. “Since I’ve been here coaches have been telling everybody to prepare like a starter. I’ve been mentally preparing myself and physically preparing myself as if I’m going to play the first game of the season.

“I’ve played there (Lucas Oil Stadium) before and we practiced there this summer, but to actually play there Sunday will be a great opportunity for me and my teammates.’’

While the preseason opener represents the next step in the prove-you-belong process for Bond and two dozen other rookies, it’s hardly an ideal situation for the Colts as a whole.

Injuries could keep as many as a half-dozen projected starters on the sideline: Kelly, guard Joe Haeg, tight end Erik Swoope, inside linebackers Jon Bostic and Antonio Morrison and cornerback Rashaan Melvin. Wideout Phillip Dorsett likely is out with hamstring issues and rookie Marlon Mack’s NFL debut might be delayed by a shoulder injury.

The offensive line might have taken yet another hit Friday when Denzelle Good left practice early.

“That’s part of every training camp I’ve been a part of,’’ quarterback Scott Tolzien said. “Bodies take time to get used to football and you’re going to go through a bunch of injuries early on.

“You can try to choose the positive side of it. It gives younger guys a chance to get out there and show what they can do. It gives you confidence in those guys so that when injuries do happen during the season you do have confidence with whoever is stepping in.’’

Perhaps, but the expected makeup of the offensive line hardly gives reason for short-term confidence. The possible starting combo versus the Lions:

  • LT Anthony Castonzo: seventh season, 89 starts.
  • LG Jeremy Vujnovich: second season, 0 starts.
  • C Bond: undrafted rookie.
  • RG Jack Mewhort: fourth season, 40 starts.
  • RT Le’Raven Clark: second season, 3 starts.

Good is the only backup with meaningful experience and he might be out. Like Bond, Zach Banner and Andrew Wylie are rookies.

Last preseason, the Colts kept Andrew Luck out of harm’s way in their first game at Buffalo when they feared his protection wouldn’t hold up against the Bills. Luck was supposed to play into the third quarter in the third game against Philadelphia, but was pulled at halftime after taking substantial abuse in the first two quarters.

While Luck remains on the physically unable to perform list, the offense is in the hands of Tolzien. If something were to happen to him during the preseason, next up is Stephen Morris, who’s yet to step on the field for a regular-season game, or Phillip Walker, a rookie.

As much as the Colts might want to protect their only healthy QB with experience, Tolzien needs the work and will start against the Lions. In six seasons, he’s appeared in nine games, started three and thrown 128 passes.

Everyone will benefit from a simplistic game plan. The coaching staff still is in evaluation mode, and, again, injuries at key positions will limit options.

But again, Tolzien “needs to play,’’ Pagano said. “All of our guys need to play. We get in our team drills out here (during camp), and it’s a little bit sloppy. There’s not a sense of urgency.’’

That changes Sunday, and that’s especially true for Bond and the younger players.

“I just talked with him,’’ Pagano said. “He’s here for a reason. He’s a talented guy that’s more than capable. You can’t let the enormity of it, the pressure of it (get to you).

“You get thrust in there, if you go in there worrying about making a bunch of mistakes, you’re probably going to make a bunch of mistakes. Trust your fundamentals, trust your technique. You’re a smart. You know what’s going on. Go out there and compete and play hard.’’

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