Colts’ notebook: Quenton Nelson excelled in pads, and with a song

Quenton Nelson (Photo courtesy of Clark Wade/IndyStar)

WESTFIELD, Ind. – The legend of Quenton Nelson remains in its infancy, but is undeniable nonetheless.

The Indianapolis Colts’ first-round draft pick is a big man with an understated voice and off-field personality. Or so Frank Reich thought.

As players were headed out to the practice field Saturday for the first day of full-padded work, Nelson approached and temporarily stunned his coach.

“I was a little shocked,’’ Reich said Sunday. “I won’t get into the details of what he was saying exactly, but let’s just say he was excited to be in pads and was encouraging me to call runs and a particular run that he could block in a certain way.

“That kind of got me fired up.’’

The 6-5, 330-pound Nelson admits he flips a switch whenever stepping on the playing field. No longer is he mild-mannered, quiet. He’s proud of his “nasty’’ reputation.

During one portion of Saturday’s practice, offensive linemen and defensive linemen went to one field for individual work. On several occasions, Nelson set himself, engaged a defender – once it was 305-pound Caraun Reid, another time it was 307-pound Rakeem Nunwz-Roches – and stopped him in his tracks. There was little or no back-tracking on Nelson’s part.

On a dump-off pass to a running back, Nelson and center Ryan Kelly peeled off following initial blocks and were 20 yards down field to offer assistance.

“All of our guys are making progress,’’ Reich said, “but (Nelson) turned a few heads yesterday. I think everybody saw it.

“He’s just really strong. But also, it’s the total package. It’s being strong, having good feet and having that demeanor. It was a good start for him yesterday.’’

But again, there’s that notion it’s difficult to have a lengthy conversation with Nelson. He’s been polite but brief during his interactions with the media.

Has quarterback Andrew Luck had any long conversations with his new left guard?

“Any kind of a long conversation?’’ he answered with a laugh. “Yeah, absolutely I have.’’

How?

“Basically by me telling him how much I think Notre Dame stinks,’’ Luck said, a Stanford grad. “We talk a lot. He’s a good dude. He’s probably got the broadest back I’ve ever seen in my life.

“He’s got a funny sense of humor. He’s fitting in really well.’’

Nelson, the songbird

Nelson won’t be quitting his day job, not after signing a guaranteed four-year, $23.9 million contract with the Colts in mid-May to be their starting left guard.

Yet apparently he revealed one of his hidden talents in front of teammates Sunday morning.

“He sang a great song this morning,’’ defensive end John Simon said. “I can’t remember what he sang (but) he did a good job. He’s one of the better ones I’ve seen as a rookie.

“I was surprised.’’

Fellow guard Matt Slauson offered details. Sorta.

“Some song from some guy,’’ he said. “I heard it was an Uncle Kracker’s song, so that’s outside my typical genre.’’

Line dance

Perhaps no area is more dependent on continuity and cohesion than the offensive line.

“At some point we’ve got to get five guys playing together so we can grow,’’ Reich conceded.

We’re not at that point, yet.

Starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo (hamstring) and starting right tackle Austin Howard (undisclosed injury) haven’t been cleared for practice, and projected backup tackle Denzelle Good recently missed a day for personal reasons. The consequence has included plugging in guards Jack Mewhort and Braden Smith.

On one hand, players are getting invaluable reps at different positions. However, until the starting group is in place, progress can’t truly be made.

“These guys are right on the cusp,’’ Reich said. “We’ve just got to be careful not to rush it.’’

The absence of Castonzo and Howard is just part of the problem for the offensive line. The Colts are carrying 15 linemen in camp, but only eight participated start-to-finish Saturday. Mewhort was given the day off while Deyshawn Bond still is being worked back to full-go after suffering a season-ending quadriceps injury Oct. 1 at Seattle and guard Jeremy Vujnovich remains on PUP with a calf injury.

Things must change, sooner rather than later.

“When you’ve got five guys up front,’’ Reich said, “the more they play together, the better you’re going to be. I don’t care, just the better you’re going to be.’’