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NFL: DEC 17 Colts at Vikings

INDIANAPOLISSure, in an ideal world, the need would have been addressed earlier, and more aggressively.

But the Colts chose not to that, therefore they have to bank on some development, and hope they are right at a very critical spot.

It gets lost in the shuffle of an offseason all about what the Colts will be doing at the quarterback position. But the Colts are banking on the second-year development of Bernhard Raimann to be the team’s left tackle of the future, for whoever that quarterback becomes.

And they have reason for that, after Raimann took some important late-season strides as a rookie.

Chris Ballard is one who feels Raimann can be the team’s left tackle for years to come.

“Yes, I do. Very encourage by it,” Ballard says of Raimann.

Raimann, 25, entered the NFL knowing some further development was needed in his football career.

An Austrian native, Raimann came to the states as a teenager, knowing very little about high-level football. Initially, he was a tight end at Central Michigan.

But he was the team’s starting left tackle for his final two seasons.

The Colts drafted him in the third round, with Raimann falling a bit than many thought.

Raimann played a little in the first two games of the season. He received quite the ‘welcome to the NFL’ moment in his starting debut of Week 5 in Denver. He started the following week against Jacksonville, but went to the bench for the next two games.

Starting in Week 9, the Colts turned back to their rookie left tackle, and stuck with him for the rest of the season, with Jeff Saturday backing the idea of letting the first-year player grow with game reps.

“Early it was rough (for Raimann), as it is for most rookie left tackles,” Ballard said. “We want them to be Jonathan Ogden the second they walk in the league. Or Anthony Castonzo. We forget Anthony had his struggles early. Most left tackles do have their struggles early.

“But to (Raimann’s) credit and I’ll never forget leaving New England, and Bernhard is passionate and cares and wants to do the right thing and has tears walking to the bus and I said, ‘You are going to have days like this in this league but your mental toughness and your ability to reset is important and for you to make it you have to do that.’ And to the kids credit, he battled his ass off. He got better each week. Sure, he has some things he has to work on. He’s going to get a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger. But we thought he performed at a winning level the last 7, 8 weeks of the season. I know there were a couple of plays and some mistakes, they all do. Look across the league. Players make mistakes.”

Late in the season, Saturday echoed some of Ballard’s thoughts about believing there should be optimism about Raimann at left tackle.

“He’s battled,” Saturday said of Raimann back in late December. “I’ve been really happy with his progress. When people break your stuff down and look at what everybody’s saying, they are going to see seven sacks, ‘Ah the offensive line.’ But if you look at the way Bernie’s played, he has gotten better each and every week. He’s faced some significant pass-rushers. He’s getting better with his technique. It’s not perfect, he understands that. He continues to pursue perfection, he hasn’t met it, but he’s doing much better with his hands placement, he’s doing much better with his set, getting out and getting himself established and taking on bull-rushers or power-rushers, however you want to look at it.

“He’s very athletic, so he does well with the athletic-type rushers. He’s progressing. He’s learning the game. He’s doing much better in his run fits as well, cutoffs on the backside, so I’ve been happy with his progress. Again, from a team that’s won one game since I’ve been here, we’re not celebrating or running parades but I have been happy with his growth at that position.”

And given how the Colts needs still look at several of the other important positions, it’s critical Raimann locks down that left tackle spot for good.