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INDIANAPOLIS – Wanting to change the accountability inside of the Colts locker room, Chris Ballard did something a bit out of character in free agency.
He signed a player who is 32 years of age, and who is also coming off a season in which he went on injured reserve in October.
Veteran offensive lineman Matt Slauson comes to the Colts as the second oldest player on this roster.
On the field, Slauson looked to be starter for the Colts in 2018 after signing during free agency. But that changed a bit when the Colts drafted 2 guards in the first 37 picks.
Putting Slauson’s playing time aside, Ballard doesn’t want to forget about the influence Slauson is going to have on a roster littered with youth and inexperience.
“What (Slauson) brings from a leadership standpoint, what he brings from a professional standpoint, what he brings from a toughness standpoint is what we want from the position,” Ballard says. “Just his influence and his presence is going to be big for that room. He’s going to demand that people perform. That’s important and that will add to the competition.”
Slauson has started 108 games since entering the NFL as a sixth-round pick in 2009.
Stints with the Jets, Bears and Chargers, Slauson has more experience with Ballard and members of this new coaching staff than any player on the roster.
It’s clear he was a free agent priority for things extending beyond his ability to pass and run block.
“They know the leadership qualities that I bring,” Slauson says of joining the Colts. “The mental and physical toughness that I bring, they just want that influence around the team.
“A side of the game that I’ve really enjoyed over the last couple years is helping develop a lot of these young guys. I don’t ever view it as me kind of grooming my replacement, but I just believe that if you have knowledge to pass down to younger guys, it’s almost your responsibility to do that. For one as a pro, but also as a teammate. I’m never going to hide any tricks I’ve got or things that I’ve learned, because if it can make us better as a line, it’s going to make us better as a team and ultimately I’m here to win.”
For a line in a dire need for upgrades, it remains to be seen how much Slauson can help out in that department.
Slauson is fully recovered from a torn bicep he suffered last October.
Short term, Slauson should be considered a depth improvement from the battered Colts’ line from 2017. He was even more than that during the offseason program, taking the first-team starting reps at right guard, ahead of rookie Braden Smith.
Long term, the Colts are ready to learn, even if Slauson’s one-year deal doesn’t extend much further.
“I’m excited to be around a veteran like that,” Jack Mewhort says of Slauson. “He’s started over 100 games or some crazy stat like that.
“I really admire him as a player and the way he plays and his toughness. I think that’s something that he can bring to the room that we all need to focus on as an offensive line going forward.”
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