To the objective outside eye, Ben Ijalana's career in Indianapolis looks to be finished.
Or, is it?
Last year, he was placed on waivers during training camp after he sustained another knee injury. No one claimed him, and he spent the 2012 campaign on Injured Reserve. During the 2013 offseason, the Colts spent $10 million in guaranteed money on two offensive linemen who play positions Ben Ijalana is best suited for: OG Donald Thomas and OT Gosder Cherilus. They also used their 3rd and 4th round picks on OG Hugh Thornton and OC Khaled Holmes, respectively.
That's four new offensive line. Four new expensive offensive linemen. Four new linemen to go with established veterans like Jeff Linkenbach, Samson Satele, and Mike McGlynn.
With all this money being spent, it was simply logical to conclude that, yeah, Ijalana is good as gone.
During mandatory minicamp last week, Colts head coach Pagano was asked specifically about Ijalana's status with the team. His answer was somewhat surprising:
Ben's just got to stay healthy. Poor kid's just been snake-bitten. He's got talent. He's big and hes athletic. We all know the measurable He's been snake bit. He's just got to take healthy. Nobody has faced more adversity than Ben. He's handled it like a pro and like a champ. He's come back and he's kept that ax swinging. As long as you don't drop that ax and keep that ax going, that tree will eventually fall. So, he'll show up to raining camp, be healthy, hopefully stay healthy, and have an opportunity to show everybody what he can do. We're eager to see that. I'm eager to see that.
When asked a follow-up question as to whether Ijalana will have a chance to show what he can do on a Colts roster that was just infused with big money free agents, Pagano said Ijalana would have "plenty of opportunities," but quantified that by saying they would come as the result of likely injuries to players ahead of him on the depth chart.
Even though that doesn't sound that the most ringing of endorsements, I personally see it as a small ray of hope for Ijalana. At the end of the day, if he is healthy, it only makes the team better if they have a 6'4, 317 pound linemen who can play four positions, including back-up left tackle.
It would also be great if the "source" who told ESPN analyst Dan Dakich that "Ijalana can't play dead" turned out to be dead wrong.