INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The team that brought him into the NFL took the necessary first step Wednesday in extending a once promising career with what amounts to a one-year, prove-it contract.
The rest is up to Jack Mewhort. And he knows it.
“To be able to be back in the building is awesome,’’ the veteran guard said in a conference call after signing the one-year deal that could be worth as much as $3 million. “For Chris Ballard to show faith in me, it’s an unreal feeling. It kind of melts my heart a little bit.
“Now it’s up to me to show that I can get back to being the kind of player I know I am and get healthy, stay healthy and be a valuable asset to this team.’’
Mewhort’s four-year career has run the gamut. The 2014 second-round pick gave every indication he would be a long-time fixture on the offensive line – 30 starts in his first two seasons – before injuries limited his availability and effectiveness.
Mewhort opened 2016 and ’17 as the starting left guard, but would finish each season on the injured reserve list with knee injuries. He missed 17 games the last two seasons.
Despite wanting to return for a fifth season, Mewhort realized there were no guarantees considering his battle with injuries.
“It think it’s human nature to always have that doubt creep in: ‘What if they don’t want me? What if no one wants me?’’’ he said. “For them to extend this and show faith is an unreal feeling. It makes it even better for it to be the team that you were drafted by and the city you’ve lived in for the last four years and been able to call your home.
“The opportunity’s unreal. Now it’s all on me to show that I’m worth it and I can get back to being who I know I am.’’
It remains to be seen how quickly that occurs, and whether Mewhort can be part of what needs to be an upgraded offensive line. His re-signing is the second transaction in as many days to address that deficient area: free agent guard/center Matt Slausen was signed to a one-year deal Tuesday.
Mewhort insisted he’s feeling good mentally – the new contract certainly helps on that front – and “on the rise’’ physically. His goal is to be at full-go status when the Colts open their offseason workout program April 9.
“I anticipate being out there when the offseason program starts, being out there with the guys,’’ he said. “We’re going to be smart going forward, but I don’t see any restrictions as far as the offseason stuff.
“I don’t anticipate missing any time at this point.’’
That’s certainly subject to change and contingent upon how his left knee handles the daily grind.
“I do believe I’m going to be able to be out there and playing at a high level,’’ Mewhort said. “As far as how far along I am, I’m getting stronger every day. I’m feeling better every day. I’ve been moving around on the field. I’m feeling good.
“As this point in my career, obviously I’m dinged up. I’ve had to deal with some stuff. All of that being said, I feel pretty darned good. Having the Colts show faith like this is making me feel even better.’’
Mewhort admitted there weren’t a lot of teams “clamoring to get their hands on Jack Mewhort’’ in free agency because of his injury history.
In the end, his one-year deal with the Colts might have been the best option. He earns $1.5 million in signing bonus, base salary and roster bonus, and can add another $1.5 million in play-time incentives.
“There’s nowhere else I want to be,’’ Mewhort said. “I didn’t want to leave Indianapolis. It’s all I could ask for in the position I’m in. Obviously things change over the years. A couple of years ago I think I had something different set in my mind. But expectations change. That’s the nature of this business.
“At this level, nothing’s guaranteed, nothing’s given to you. You really have to lock in and focus on what’s important and the small details and realize that every little, small opportunity you get could be the last.’’
Cornerback Pierre Desir, like Mewhort, signed a one-year contract to return to the Colts. He echoed Mewhort’s sentiments on being right where he wanted to be.
“I was wanting to come back,’’ Desir said in a conference call. “My first and second and third option was to come back to Indy.
“I love the fans. My family, we love the city. So I just wanted to come back and play again for the Shoe.’’
The Colts claimed Desir off waives from Seattle in September and he emerged as a solid contributor. He appeared in nine games, starting six, before being placed on the injured reserve list in December with a torn pectoral muscle.
In nine games, Desir had 32 tackles, one interception and seven defended passes.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.