Colts’ veteran tackle Anthony Castonzo: ‘I do still feel young’

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02: Anthony Castonzo of Indianapolis looks on during the NFL International Series match between Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on October 2, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Perhaps the question isn’t whether a contract extension is looming for Anthony Castonzo.

The more pertinent question might be: How many more might be coming?

When it comes to the Indianapolis Colts’ veteran left tackle, the older he gets, the younger he feels.

“Call me Benjamin Button,” Castonzo, 30, said with a wide smile Thursday afternoon.

He’s entering his ninth season and is in the final year of his contract. On a roster teeming with young talent, he’s the fourth-oldest Colt behind Adam Vinatieri (46), Margus Hunt (31) and J’Marcus Webb (30 and a day older than Castonzo).

Along the offensive line, left guard Quenton Nelson and right tackle Braden Smith are 23 and heading into their second seasons. Center Ryan Kelly and versatile Joe Haeg are 25 and heading into year 4. Backup center Evan Boehm is 25, right guard Mark Glowinski 27 and backup tackle Le’Raven Clark 26.

“It’s kinda weird because I do still feel young and I don’t feel like I’ve got to do these tricks to get my job done because I feel like I’m still physically young,” Castonzo said. “It doesn’t feel like I’m the old guy and those are the young guys.

“Anybody can kinda razz anybody else. It’s a good team chemistry going.”

While sitting in a meeting room with and practicing alongside younger teammates might help keep Castonzo feeling younger than he is, it goes much deeper and can be traced to another source.

Rusty Jones apparently is Anthony Castonzo’s Fountain of Youth.

Jones was brought in last season by general manager Chris Ballard as director of sports performance. His resume was deep: nearly three decades with the Buffalo Bills and Chicago Bears, and a decorated expert in strength, conditioning, workouts, nutrition and overall player performance.

For so long, Castonzo dealt with knee pain.

“I thought it was coming from my knee,” he said. “But Rusty kind of assessed it and realized it was coming from imbalances in my hips.”

Along with the knee issue, Castonzo battled a hamstring last year. He first pulled it while working out on his own prior to training camp, then aggravated it two more times. It forced him to miss the first five games of the season. He had missed just seven of the previous 120 games since being selected with the 22nd overall pick of the 2011 draft.

“It kinda took the hamstring (injury) to realize I had really weak hamstrings, which is obvious after I pulled a hamstring three times,” Castonzo said with a chuckle. “We get a lot of posterior chain strengthening.

“For the first time in my career, I don’t have knee pain. It’s really exciting.”

The altered training approach has contributed to Castonzo being more efficient and consistent on the field.

“If anything, I’m still getting better,” he said. “It’ll be a sad day when I feel like I’ve reached my peak. It’s a downward hill from there.

“Rusty and the guys in the strength room have done great things with me. My body honestly feels better right now than it did my rookie year stepping in here. I have less pain everywhere. It’s pretty crazy what they’ve done. It’s exciting to be going into a season at age 30 possibly playing my best football.”

Ballard hasn’t ruled out an extension for players in position to receive one.

“Hopefully,” he said earlier this week.

That might be for Castonzo or Kelly, who recently had the fifth-year option in his 2016 rookie contract triggered at a cost of approximately $10 million in 2020.

“I’ll say this,” Ballard offered. “I think Castonzo has some years left. I think our program, what we’re doing strength-wise, has helped him and I think it will extend his career.”

Castonzo isn’t preoccupied with whether the Colts extend him now, or wait until his contract expires after this season.

One indicator the team views him as its left tackle beyond 2019 is there is no heir apparent on the roster. Ballard waited until the seventh round of the April draft to add a tackle, and there’s no reason to believe the personnel staff considers Barton Jackson a possible successor to Castonzo.

To this point, the Colts haven’t approached Castonzo about an extension.

“We’ll see,” he said. “I have to play good football one way or the other. Everything else kind of takes care of itself.”

Does he care if an extension gets done prior to the start of the season?

“No. All I’m trying to do is play good football,” he said. “Contract will take care of itself.”

Castonzo’s next contract figures to make him one of the NFL’s highest-paid left tackles. The top-12 ranges from Oakland’s Trent Brown ($16.5 million per year) to Cincinnati’s Cordy Glenn ($12 million). The four-year extension Castonzo signed in September 2015 averages $10.95 million per season.

It was a mega-contract he learned of from the media after exiting a meeting.

“The media found out about my extension before I did last time,” he said.

When/if the next one comes from the Colts, Castonzo believes he’ll be in position to earn it. He already is arguably coming off two of the best seasons of his career.

As he’s gotten older, Castonzo adapted his offseason work. He blamed the hamstring issue last July on overtraining.

“I don’t lift super heavy right away,” he said. “I’m letting my body kinda build more of a base and ramp it up a little bit more. I used to want to be 100 percent ready to go for that first OTA and be playing my best football.

“That was like the world to me because every time I step on the field I want to dominate. Now I understand OTAs are part of the process.”

The Colts transition into the OTA phase of their offseason work next week.

“I’ll be playing my best ball Sept. 8 (the season opener at the Los Angeles Chargers) and moving forward into the season,” Castonzo said. “It’s definitely more of a gradual thing to make sure I’m at my strongest, my fastest when the season starts.”

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51

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