INDIANAPOLIS – The date’s been circled in bright red on the calendar since mid-May when Bernhard Raimann and the Indianapolis Colts were informed their Week 10 road test against the New England Patriots would be a road test like few others.
Nov. 12. Frankfurt, Germany.
Raimann’s hometown is Steinbrunn, Austria, which is approximately 390 miles southwest of Frankfurt.
He immediately alerted his family of the unique occasion for them to watch, in person, him play in an NFL game. Only his father, Michael Eibensteiner, has had that opportunity since the Colts selected Raimann in the third round of the 2022 draft.
The last time the family – en masse – was on hand for one of Raimann’s American-style football games was when he was a teenage wide receiver for the Vienna Vikings and they reached the Austrian national championship for his age group. He caught a touchdown pass in the game, but eventually would grow into a 315-pound NFL offensive tackle.
This weekend’s reunion will be well-attended and hugs plentiful.
“It’s going to be a long flight,’’ Raimann said Wednesday, “but once we get there it’s going to be really exciting to see everybody, get some German food and have a good game against the Patriots.
“I got 18 tickets; a combination of close family, friends. A couple of relatives from Germany are coming as well. It’s going to be really fun.’’
It’s a business trip for the Colts, but the schedule allows a few blocks of free time for players.
“If you’re a guy that goes out to dinner here in Indy, if you want to go out and have dinner, go and do that,’’ coach Shane Steichen said. “Be smart and be safe and come back in and be ready to go.’’
That’s the plan for Raimann’s family/friends.
Since he’s been preoccupied with rounding up the 18 tickets and doing his normal preparation for the game, Raimann assigned his mom the task of making dinner reservations for Saturday night in Frankfurt.
“We just found out our schedule, so as soon as I found out I told my mom, ‘Hey, this is the hour-and-a-half window that we have. Let’s try to get everybody together,’’’ he said. “It’s also a little difficult to call for reservations from here.’’
A good time will be had by all.
Then, Sunday’s game at Frankfurt Stadium.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,’’ Raimann said. “When they first announced it, I was over the moon excited about the game. A couple of family members – like my grandma – might have never traveled over to the U.S. It’s a long flight. For [my grandma] to be able to come to the game… it’s an unbelievable chance for everybody, for my family.
“I’m just beyond excited about it.”
Raimann’s first serious exposure to the NFL occurred in late September 2013 when he and a few friends traveled to London for the Minnesota Vikings-Pittsburgh Steelers game at Wembley Stadium.
“I actually have the ticket at home in my mom’s house,’’ he said. “It was huge then and it was super exciting for me. I’d started playing football and being able to see the NFL live meant that much to me.
“Now, I have friends over there (and) family members that went to London games these past couple years. A couple went to the Germany game last week and they all said it was an awesome experience.
“That just gets me even more fired up to go over there and putting on a good performance just because I remember back then when I was a kid and I saw those guys play in London, how much it meant to me.’’
When his father attended a game last season, Raimann was a rookie just trying to find his way. It was the Colts’ week 8 loss to Washington and he was on the field for just four special teams snaps.
Now, Raimann is showing signs of being Indy’s long-term answer at left tackle. Pro Football Focus has him as its No. 9-ranked tackle with an 80.3 grade. The site has him allowing 2 sacks after yielding 7 during what was a challenging rookie season.
“He processes stuff really, really quickly and then when you pair that with the way he prepares and the way that he works, it doesn’t happen by accident that he’s improving,’’ position coach Tony Sparano Jr. told Colts.com last month.
Respect for Belichick
Steichen has watched Bill Belichick from the opposing sideline during his career, but the distance hasn’t clouded his view.
“Watching what he does over his career is phenomenal,’’ Steichen said. “Just what he does. He’s always switching things up. He’s a brilliant coach, a ton of respect for the guy.
“He’s been doing it at the highest level and has been the best doing it for I don’t know, the last three decades? But just a ton of respect for what he does on a weekly basis.’’
Belichick has a 331-172 overall record (.658), including 300-159 (.654) in the regular season, in his 29-year history as a head coach with New England and Cleveland. He’s 294-127 in 24 seasons with the Patriots and has led them to eight Super Bowls with six world championships.
But there are rumblings that owner Robert Kraft is prepared to move on from his legendary coach. The Belichick-led Patriots are 27-32 since Tom Brady departed after the 2019 season and carry a 2-7 record into Sunday’s game.
The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin recently wrote Kraft could fire Belichick if the Patriots lost to Washington, followed that with a loss to the Colts in Germany and headed into their week 11 bye with a 2-8 record. New England was beaten by the Commanders 20-17 in Foxboro last weekend.
Earlier this week, a reporter asked Belichick if he might be coaching for his job against the Colts. In fact, the reporter asked a follow-up to that question.
“I’m going to control what I can control and get ready for the Colts,’’ he said.
Steichen appeared incredulous when asked about Belichick facing that line of questioning.
“No, I couldn’t imagine it,’’ he said. “I think Bill Belichick is the best to ever do it.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on X, formerly known as Twitter, at @mchappell51.