INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It was a tale of two centers.
Ryan Kelly trudged to his cubicle in the locker room at the Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance Football Center Tuesday afternoon, fiddled with some papers, turned and headed for the nearest exit. He wore a brace on his left knee and politely declined comment.
“Sorry,’’ he said.
Evan Boehm walked briskly to his locker, got some personal items, turned and headed for home. He wore a smile and eagerly stopped to chat.
“I’m excited, man,’’ Boehm said. “I’m very excited to get this opportunity. I wish Ryan the best, but I’m going out there to fill Ryan’s shoes and play at the level Ryan’s playing at.’’
One center who’s been performing at a Pro Bowl level but is expected to miss the Indianapolis Colts’ Sunday meeting with the Miami Dolphins in Lucas Oil Stadium.
Another center who’ll be asked to keep things rolling until Kelly returns.
This is a Colts’ offensive line, remember, that’s playing at a historical level. It already has set a team record by allowing no sacks in the last five games. That’s tied for the third-longest streak in NFL history. Also, Andrew Luck has delivered 214 passes without being sacked, a personal-best streak.
As it turns out, the sack-less streak coincides with Boehm’s addition to the offensive line room. The Colts signed him off the Los Angeles Ram’s practice squad Oct. 9, five days before the streak began against the New York Jets.
“It’s going to be like that,’’ Boehm said. “I’m going to keep that training going.
“It’s not going to end on my watch.’’
That wasn’t a guarantee, just Boehm’s confident mindset.
His objective this week is simply to step in and do whatever Kelly has been doing. Boehm will spend extra time reviewing video with Luck. He’ll work exclusively with Luck and the No. 1 offense in practice. He’ll undoubtedly find time for even more video work.
Position coach Dave DeGuglielmo’s message to Boehm?
“Whatever Ryan was doing with Andrew, it’s my turn to do that,’’ Boehm said. “It’s going to be normal week. It’s not going to be, ‘Oh shoot, and panic and swear because Evan’s in the game’.
“I’m going to go out there. I’m going to play confident. I’m going to be confident with my calls this week in practice and the game.’’
The Colts’ impeccable pass protection has been a byproduct of Luck and Kelly working in concert in their pre-snap calls and adjustments. Not only didn’t the Tennessee Titans sack Luck Sunday, they weren’t even credited with a hit on him.
“I sit in the same meeting as Ryan does. We all do,’’ Boehm said. “We all hear what the protections are. I told Quenton (Nelson, rookie guard) I felt prepared to get thrown in the game last week if it was the fourth quarter, second quarter, whatever.’’
Left tackle Anthony Castonzo noted Kelly has been playing “at an extremely high level. Anytime you lose a guy like that you feel it, but Evan’s been here a few weeks and he’s got a command of everything.
“We’re going to expect him to go out there and get the job done.’’
Offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni described Boehm as a “football guy.’’ Boehm’s dad was a football coach.
“I think of Philip Rivers and his dad was a football coach,’’ Sirianni said, “and these guys love football. A guy who grows up watching tape with his dad all the time, it can go one or two ways. They’re going to burn ‘em out and they’re never going to watch football again and he’s going to like soccer or they’re going to love football.
“One thing I know about him is he loves football and he was born in it and he’s going to prepare and he’s smart and guys have confidence he’s going to get the right calls out.’’
Boehm, 25, already has stepped in for Kelly. He was on the field for 8 plays in the first half at Oakland when Kelly was dealing with a hand injury, and handled the final 12 plays in mop-up time Sunday against Tennessee after Kelly exited with his knee injury.
Boehm was a 2016 fourth-round draft pick of Arizona who appeared in 31 games with nine starts in two seasons with the Cardinals. He started eight games at right guard in 2017.
At Missouri, Boehm established himself as a top-level center. He set a school record with 52 consecutive starts, and the final 40 came at center.
“I was telling (DeGuglielmo) this is the first start I’ve gotten in the NFL at center in three years in the league,’’ Boehm said. “I’m a lot more comfortable at center than I am at guard. I hope that shows on Sunday.’’
Why the comfort level?
“I love having the ball in my hand,’’ Boehm said. “I love being able to control the line. I love being in that leadership situation to where I can go up and be a leader and show guys and tell guys, ‘OK, here’s the look. Here’s what we’ve got to do to that look.’’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.