Colts rookie Jack Mewhort has suddenly become Indy’s most valuable commodity.
The do-it-all offensive lineman has insisted he’s comfortable at any of the five positions along the line. And given the Colts mounting injury problems, that’s exactly what they need. On Saturday, the rookie who was expected to compete at left guard suddenly found himself sharing snaps in front of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
“It’s definitely a little bit of mental gymnastics going through all the different stuff but I accept the challenge. It helps me,” Mewhort said. “When you know the offense from the center out, it helps you understand different positions like guard and tackle. In the long run, it’s a big help.”
Indy’s initial plan was to let the second-round draft pick settle in at one spot to help him make the transition from Ohio State to the NFL.
They don’t have a choice now.
One week into training camp, starting left guard Donald Thomas went down with a torn right quad, the same injury that ended his 2013 season.
On Thursday night against the Jets, the Colts lost their starting center, Khaled Holmes, with a left ankle injury on the first series. Holmes watched Saturday’s practice while wearing a protective walking boot and is expected back in two to three weeks, certainly enough time to start the Sept. 7 season opener at Denver.
But Indy’s injury list doesn’t stop there.
Xavier Nixon, who was expected to be a key backup after making one start and appearing in four games last year, had arthroscopic surgery on an injured knee Friday and is expected to miss three weeks. And seventh-round draft pick Ulrick John may miss significant time, too, with a lower right leg injury.
The injuries left Indy thin at center, where they had only Holmes and two undrafted rookies, Jonotthan Harrison and FN Lutz III, before re-signing Thomas Austin on Friday night.
Austin spent time with Houston and Carolina in 2011 and 2012 before playing in one game with the Colts last season. Harrison replaced Holmes in Thursday night’s game and had a hand in two bad snaps, including one on third down that forced Indy to settle for a field goal.
Harrison is simply trying to make the necessary corrections as he splits the snaps with Mewhort, probably until Holmes returns.
“It’s very unfortunate what happened to him (Holmes) but at the same time, it’s a great opportunity for me to get in and get the experience, especially in these preseason games,” he said. “I’m thankful for the experience, and I’m definitely going to capitalize on it as much as I can.”
Mewhort has been through this before. He played both guard spots and left tackle at Ohio State. In high school, he was considered one of the nation’s best centers and he continued taking snaps there in college as the Buckeyes’ emergency center.
The move could also help former Bears starter Lance Louis, who wasn’t in the league last season, gain a foothold at left guard, where he was battling Mewhort for playing time following Thomas’ season-ending injury.
So for now, Mewhort will be learning his new job on the fly.
“Mindset doesn’t change,” he said. “It’s been compete since day one and that’s what I’m here to do. Nothing is set in stone, so just go out there every day and grind and hopefully good stuff happens.”
Notes: Colts coach Chuck Pagano said linebacker Daniel Adongo, the Kenyan rugby player, ruptured his biceps Thursday night and defensive lineman Jeris Pendleton tore the ACL in his knee. Both will miss the entire season and were put on the waived-injured list Friday night. … Edgerrin James, the Colts’ career rushing leader, visited camp Saturday . … Tight end Dwayne Allen graduated from Clemson on Friday, making him the first of seven children in his family to earn a college degree.