INDIANAPOLIS – Ryan Kelly won a National Championship at Alabama.
In 2015, Kelly not only was on the undefeated National Champs, but he also took home the Rimington Award, given to the nation’s best center.
Yet, Kelly calls last season—one in which injuries limited him to 12 games played, and the Colts lost in the Divisional Round of the Playoffs—his favorite year in football.
And Kelly points to the continuity of this offensive line group returning every single player, except the retired Matt Slauson, as to why he loved last year so much.
“I think we have an incredible group,” Kelly says of his fellas in the trenches. “I give a lot of credit to coach Frank (Reich) and Chris (Ballard) for developing a room with high character guys.
“Last year was the most fun I’ve had playing football. I want to keep that rolling as much as I can.”
Kelly answered that question with a bit of an eyebrow raiser.
The fact that he went down that path with such an answer wasn’t expected when the question was asked.
The initial inquiry was about Kelly entering a critical season.
With a decision on Kelly’s rookie contract possibly being extended through 2020 due by May 3, the center must prove his durability this fall.
The fourth-year center says he is not too concerned about the pending second contract.
“You don’t come in this league playing for contracts,” Kelly says. “Maybe initially that’s what you are thinking, but once you get into that, you just want to be out there with your guys. At the end of the day, watching games from the sideline is not fun…”
“Obviously, a big thing for me will be going throughout the year and trying to be healthy the entire year.”
Kelly has missed 13 games over the last two seasons.
It’s no secret that the Colts are a much less effective offensive unit when their first-round center is out of the lineup.
A future Colts offense with Kelly snapping to Andrew Luck is exactly what Ryan Grigson envisioned back in 2016.
That pairing now is working together for the entire spring for their first time ever, forming a combination that needs to maintain their health for this team to continue its ascension.
“It’s huge,” Kelly says of working together with Luck this spring. “Obviously, you can never really replicate game day experience and having those valuable reps that we have had together but just in Phase II, we can start doing it on the field and kind of seeing things the way they are broken down. I know that we are always going to have something new. We do a lot of self-scouting so I know there are going to be some new routes, new concepts of what we put in and just being able to iron those out now, it kind of accelerates us for those OTA days that are going to come.”
Ryan Kelly says he’s playing in Saturday’s wild-card game versus the Houston Texans. The Colts can only hope.
Indianapolis’ starting center was in and out of the lineup in the second of half of last week’s playoff-clinching win against the Tennessee Titans because of a neck injury. He told reporters that the issue has made it difficult for him to snap the ball. But he was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice, and when asked if he would be available to make his postseason debut this weekend, Kelly didn’t hesitate.
“Yeah, I’m ready to go,” the third-year veteran said.
Kelly’s prowess in pass protection and as a run blocker makes him one of the Colts’ top linemen. He was named a Pro Bowl alternate in December. Kelly started in all 12 games he appeared in during the regular season, missing time because of neck and knee injuries.
Safety Clayton Geathers (knee) also returned to practice Wednesday, while wide receivers T.Y Hilton (ankle) and Ryan Grant (toe) were out.
Here are other injuries we’re monitoring around the league:
- Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who exited Week 17’s game in the fourth quarter because of bruised ribs, told reporters he’s still feeling some soreness but that he’ll be good to go for Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears. The Eagles held a walkthrough Wednesday and Foles was listed as limited.
Linebacker D.J. Alexander (hamstring), defensive end Michael Bennett (foot) and cornerback Sidney Jones (hamstring) did not participate. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (knee), center Jason Kelce (knee), offensive tackle Jason Peters (quadricep), guard Isaac Seumalo (chest) and wide receiver Mike Wallace (ankle) were limited.
- Bears safety Eddie Jackson (ankle) told NFL Network’s Stacey Dales he is “most likely” playing Sunday versus the Eagles. Jackson has missed the past two games after spraining his ankle late in the Bears’ Week 15 victory against the Green Bay Packers. He did not practice Wednesday.
Linebacker Aaron Lynch (elbow) was also out. Guard Kyle Long (ankle) and wide receivers Taylor Gabriel (ribs), Anthony Miller (shoulder) and Allen Robinson (ribs) were full participants.
- Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (ankle) and defensive end J.J. Watt (elbow/knee) were limited Wednesday. Wide receiver Keke Coutee (hamstring), defensive tackle Brandon Dunn (ankle) cornerback Johnathan Joseph (neck), linebacker Benardrick McKinney (heel) were full participants. Houston placed safety Mike Tyson (knee/ankle) on injured reserve.
- Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (groin) was limited in practice.
- Baltimore Ravens cornerback Tavon Young (groin) didn’t participate in practice.