For the first time in his somewhat improbable NFL career, former-6th round pick Charlie Johnson is entering an NFL season preparing to play only one offensive line position: Left tackle.
Ever since Johnson was taken out of Oklahoma State in 2006, he has played every single offensive line position except center. He played right tackle for most of Super Bowl 41, shutting down Bears pass rusher Alex Brown. Last season, just prior to training camp, he was given the nod to start at left tackle, which he did for most of the 2009 season. It was a move that was highly questionable, given that the Colts had invested a significant amount in Tony Ugoh, who had started at left tackle since 2007.
This year, the roles for Ugoh and Johnson have been reversed. Charlie is now Peyton Manning's blindside bodyguard, and Ugoh is learning how to play guard for the first time in his pro career.
Recently, Charlie Johnson was interviewed on Indianapolis radio 1070's The Fan for a show called "The Heavyweights." This is one of the few year-round dedicated Colts shows, hosted by Colts employees Jeffery Gorman and Will Wolford. WIBC employee Joe Stayniak, who at one time played for the Colts as an offensive lineman, also contributes to the show.
Yesterday evening, Staysniak asked Charlie a question about some of the "flak" the Colts offensive line has taken this off-season. Charlie's answer is somewhat interesting [emphasis mine]:
Staysniak: Offensive line caught some flak. I didn’t see that the offensive line played that bad in the Super Bow, but-
Wolford (interrupting): Come on, Joe! You know how it is.
Staysniak: Well, I know. How do you deal with something like that? And what is it about this offensive line once they're kind of cornered like that, you come out swinging?
Johnson: That’s just the way we approach things. If you look at our line, we're not a bunch of high round draft picks. We got a couple free agents. Everyone knows about Jeff Saturday, and myself being a sixth round pick. And Kyle DeVan a free agent. And I think Ryan Diem is a fourth round pick. We're a bunch of guys who’ve had to work to get where we are. So, anytime anything negative is said about us, we take it personally just in the fact that we know how hard we work and we feel like we go out there and we give everything we have for the team and for the game. So, were gonna bounce back.
Now, unless Staysniak is a complete moron, which I do not think he is, the "flak" he is referring to is Colts President Bill Polian and the comments he made immediately following Super Bowl 44. As far as I know, Polian was the only person post-Super Bowl to take shots at the Colts o-line. Pretty much everyone else thought the o-line played well. Also, unless I am incorrect in my assessment of Staysniak's comments and their tone, he kind of thinks Polian's opinion on the Colts line play is less than informed. Polian clearly indicated that a big reason why the Colts lost the game was the poor play of the o-line.
Here's Polian back in February:
"Our offensive line, by our standards, did not have a good game," Polian told NFL.com. "They were outplayed by the Saints' defensive line."
Colts linemen who took issue with Polian's statement were NFLPA rep Jeff Saturday and longtime veteran Ryan Diem. Now, it seems you can add Charlie Johnson and Joe Staysniak to the list of current and former Colts offensive linemen who seem to think Bill Polian doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to evaluating the team's performance during Super Bowl 44. By the way Will Wolford sounds in the audio clip, he too seems to think Polian's comments were as dumb as everyone else seems to think they were.
If there is a positive to take out of Polian's silly "flak" attacks on the offensive line post-Super Bowl 44 it is that the line seems to be using his words as motivation to improve. Was that the reasoning for the comments all along for Polian? Doubtful, but who knows. Bill has a long history of getting emotional and saying very stupid things to the wrong people at exactly the wrong time. Also, his actions in free agency and the draft strongly suggest that he is not happy with the line's 2009 play.
I mean, Adam Terry wasn't brought onto the team just because Polian likes his Sasquatch look. He was brought in to compete with Diem for his starting RT job. Longtime Colts guard Ryan Lilja, who was arguably the best interior lineman playing last year for Indy, was cut this off-season for seemingly no reason. New faces like 2010 draftee Jacques McClendon and free agent Andy Alleman are competing for Lilja's old job.
Watching how the offensive plays in 2010 will be an interesting sub-plot for this Colts team. It seems pretty clear that the veterans simple do not agree with Bill Polian's evaluation of their talents, and Polian is making it clear to the veterans that he has no problem replacing them if their performance does not (in his eyes) improve.