INDIANAPOLIS – One could make a very compelling case Bernhard Raimann is the most important Colt in this 2023 season.
A positive jump from Raimann would stabilize a position which hasn’t felt that since Anthony Castonzo’s retirement three offseasons ago.
It would give the Colts legit belief they’ve found an answer at one of the NFL’s most important positions, therefore not needing to spend another valuable resource there for the foreseeable future.
And it would also secure the blindside of whoever is playing quarterback for the 2023 Colts, particularly if it’s rookie Anthony Richardson on the field substantially in Year One.
If the flip side occurs, it would further questions about the future at left tackle and could negatively impact the vital need of Richardson’s growth.
Raimann, spotting 15 pounds more than his rookie season, is now in the 315-320 pound range, doing what the Colts wanted him to do this offseason from a strength standpoint.
“The trajectory is heading the right direction with (Raimann),” new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter says. “As a young player in this league, struggles as a rookie, they’re not uncommon. Those things do happen. He’s got some talent, he’s got a great mentality around the building. He’s asking the right questions, he’s working to get better.
“A lot of times in this league, going from Year One to Year Two can be one of the biggest steps you’ll have in your career. He’s putting together a nice offseason of starting that off. It’s only Phase Two, we’re right in the middle of that, that ‘on air’ type part of the year but he’s doing a nice job. I’m excited about seeing what kind of player he becomes.”
It was quite the rookie-year experience for Raimann.
At 24, he entered the NFL with just 2 years of offensive tackle experience, at any level of football.
The Colts gave Raimann his first start on a short-week (with no practices that week) in a Thursday night matchup against one of the NFL’s best defenses.
It was a night to forget against Denver.
“The Denver game obviously was the ‘Welcome to the NFL’ moment where you’re not exactly on the snap count, or you take the wrong first step or something and you’re going to get beat,” Raimann said of his first NFL start in Week 5.
The Colts started Raimann the next week against Jacksonville, but he was benched after 11 snaps and didn’t play the next two games.
Raimann re-entered the starting lineup in Week 9, and then interim head coach Jeff Saturday kept him in the lineup the following week, with the rookie playing every single offensive snap for the rest of the season.
And it was in those final two months, as the Colts dealt with organization dysfunction from the top-down, when the rookie left tackle was slowly developing.
“I was really encouraged by a lot of what I saw on (Raimann’s) tape, both in pass protection and what he can do for you in the run game,” new offensive line coach Tony Sparano Jr. says.
It doesn’t take long to see the spirit of Raimann giving him a chance to tap into the necessary development the Colts knew was there when drafting him in the 3rd Round of last year.
Understandably, Raimann lights up at the expectation he will be in the starting lineup when the Colts play their game in Frankfurt, Germany this November, which is about an 8-hour drive from his hometown in Austria.
When the Colts play that game, Raimann is hoping his entire family will be in attendance.
If that happens, it’ll be the first time they’ve watched him play in-person since he was a wide receiver for the Vienna Vikings some 7 years ago.
Times have changed, and the Colts believe that means a long-term future for Raimann blocking Anthony Richardson’s blindside.
“Very encouraged by it,” Chris Ballard says of Raimann’s first NFL season. “Early it was rough, as it is for most rookie left tackles. 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.”
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