INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Imagine, the key to the Indianapolis Colts might well be in the hands of a bunch of quirky weirdos who get together on a regular basis because, well, no one else wants to hang with them.
Whether the Colts can return to playoff prominence hinges in large part on continued progress from the offensive line, which is a collection of those quirky weirdos.
Don’t take our word for it. Listen to one of those quirky weirdos. Listen to left tackle Anthony Castonzo. At 28 and heading into his seventh season, he’s earned the designation of Head Weirdo by being the eldest in the meeting room.
“We’re a bunch of weirdos. That’s pretty much it,’’ Castonzo said when asked to describe the uniqueness of his cohorts. “We have a lot of quirks and we understand each other because we all have different quirks.’’
Perhaps more than any area of an NFL team, the offensive line requires synchronization and chemistry. A player must have steadfast trust in the player to his left or right, or with a backup thrust into the starting lineup because of injury.
Arguably the first step in building chemistry is developing camaraderie, and that means getting to know, appreciate and respect your peers.
For Castonzo and his weirdo ‘mates, that process began shortly after a disappointing 2016 ended. After a short break, many of the offensive linemen began trickling into the Colts’ West 56th Street complex.
“Even after the season, we had at least five or six guys at some point were always in there,’’ guard Joe Haeg said. “I think that’s huge. Just being around the guys.’’
That led to hanging out away from the facility. Maybe it was at a player’s home or apartment. Maybe it was at a local restaurant.
“We spend way too much time together,’’ Castonzo said, laughing. “I think it’s because no one else likes us actually. We understand each other.’’
This offseason, the offensive linemen enlarged their social circle to include quarterbacks. Not surprisingly, Andrew Luck assumed a leadership role.
“Andrew has done a good job of kind of doing some quarterback and offensive line outings, just kind of getting together, doing a bunch of different stuff,’’ Castonzo said. “We’re definitely spending more time together.
“Our girlfriends are feeling neglected.’’
Apparently Luck is feeling unusually antsy this offseason while recovering from January surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He’s not participating in any of the on-field work – the Colts just concluded their first of four weeks in the OTA phase of their offseason program – but is involved with every other phase of preparation.
Luck’s frustration over his inactivity is evident whenever players meet.
“He wants to be out there real bad,’’ Castonzo said. “Trust me, every time we all get together, he wants to do nothing but talk about football. We talk about everything we’ve got going on, and he’ll bring up plays and stuff. We’ll be like, ‘We’re just hanging out. C’mon, give us a break.’
“He loves it too much. When he brings it up, we’re happy to chat about it. It’s just the fact he wants to be out there and wants to be doing it.’’
Castonzo’s smile widened as he considered how well Luck fit with the quirky O-line clique. Remember, they’re a bunch of weirdos.
“I think that’s why Andrew fits into our group, too, because he’s got his own quirks,’’ he said. “Not saying he’s a weirdo, but he’s got his own quirks and we all kind of recognize that. ‘You know what? We all kind of understand each other.’
“It’s definitely a different group.’’
Guard Jack Mewhort agreed, noting the Colts’ collection goes against the stereotypical “cool’’ NFL player that “likes to get in warm weather and go to the nightclubs.’’
“The opposite of that is our offensive line room,’’ Mewhort said. “We’re all pretty much Midwest guys. “Le’Raven (Clark) is a Texas guy, but we don’t have a ton going on socially.
“We like to hang out with each other and we enjoy each other. We’re friends and we’ve been through a lot together. . . . We really enjoy being together and laughing and hanging out. I mean that’s what we do. Pretty much laugh, hang out and eat. That’s the gist of it.’’
The anticipated result? A more cohesive and better offensive line, which should mean a better and more productive Andrew Luck.
To this point, Luck has been forced to operate behind an offensive line that has lacked continuity and consistency. He has lined up behind a different starting five in 35 of his 70 regular-season starts and been sacked 156 times. Since 2012, the Colts have allowed a league-high 578 QB hits, according to NFL.com.