INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – We’ve reached that point in the season when nametags should be a required accessory for players walking through the halls of the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
The Indianapolis Colts’ decision Tuesday to place linebacker John Simon on the injured reserve list resulted in Anthony Johnson being elevated to the active roster from the practice squad. That’s Anthony Johnson, defensive end out of LSU, who shouldn’t be confused with Anthony Johnson, former Notre Dame running back and 1990 second-round draft pick.
Monday, the Colts placed cornerback Pierre Desir on IR and re-signed running back Matt Jones. It’s the third time in less than four months Jones has yo-yoed from the waiver wire, the active roster, being waived, being brought back.
“It’s easy to say it’s part of the National Football League and part of the business, but it’s hard,’’ Chuck Pagano said Wednesday. “You keep your head up. You keep working and the phone’s going to ring and you’re going to be right back, either on another team or right back here.
“It’s hard. It’s life. It stinks for all those guys.’’
On a much different level, it also stinks for those trying to keep track of who’s who in the locker room.
Offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo was asked if he knows each of his teammates. His eyes betrayed him as they widened. So did the wry smile.
“Honestly, no,’’ he said. “About five weeks ago I could probably say yes, but there’s been a lot of guys going down and a lot of new guys coming in pretty rapidly.
“Do I know their faces? Yes. But do I know everybody’s name? Probably not.’’
Castonzo is a savvy veteran of seven NFL seasons and 107 games. He’s developed the appropriate reaction when passing good ol’ What’s His Name in the hallway.
Hey, how’s it going?
Adam Vinatieri can relate. Although kickers and punters traditionally form their own clique, Vinatieri tries to interact with as many teammates as possible over the course of a season.
The revolving-door nature of the roster, especially in December, tests his creativity.
Hey, how ya doin’ guy?
“I kind of know what their position is, but I don’t know much about them,’’ Vinatieri said. “I try to sit down at lunch with them and, ‘Hey, how’s it going? You got a family?’ You know, try to learn something about them.’’
Does he actually know the name of the teammate with whom he’s breaking bread?
“Maybe, maybe not,’’ Vinatieri admitted. “Honestly, we’ve been signing a couple of new players every week for the last six, eight weeks.
“If I look around, for the last three or four weeks we’ve probably got six or eight new guys. I don’t know all their names, no.’’
Of the current 53-player active roster, 13 were added after Sept. 2, which means they had zero exposure to the Colts during training camp. And there are eight more post-Sept. 2 additions who played at least a game but now are on IR or no longer with the team.
In the past five weeks alone as injuries have decimated the Colts, general manager Chris Ballard has worn out his Who’s Available list in his office. Since Nov. 1, he’s added 11 players to the active roster via waiver claims, free-agent signings or elevating someone from the practice squad.
The roster adjustment has gotten more pronounced recently with Simon, Desir and defensive lineman Henry Anderson being placed on IR.
Injuries have forced the Colts to start nine different offensive linemen, including three centers. They’ve gone with six different starting cornerbacks.
The war of attrition results in constant shuffling and requires constant adjustment. When an injury impacts the cornerback room, that spills over to the special teams room. A corner who might have been a major special-teams contributor – perhaps Kenny Moore II – could see his coverage time on punts diminish as his snaps on defense increase.
“You try to rest those guys because they’re going to play 50, 60 snaps (on defense), running all day covering wideouts,’’ Pagano said. “As soon as (a starting corner goes) down, the backups are special teamers and those move up to starters and you want to save their legs.’’
On Oct. 3, rookie center Deyshawn Bond was placed on IR with a torn quadriceps. His void immediately was filled by Mike Person, who had spent the offseason and preseason with Kansas City.
Less than three weeks later, Person played the second half against Jacksonville after Ryan Kelly was sidelined with a hamstring injury. Last Sunday, Person started against the Jaguars.
“You come in and you get your nose into the playbook,’’ Person said. “We did extra meetings, whatever we had to do to get ready.’’
Person was part of the Colts’ seventh different starting offensive line combination. An eighth is likely Sunday at Buffalo with the expected return of Kelly, who missed the Jacksonville game with a concussion.
“You’d love to have five guys playing together for five years, five games, two games, one game,’’ Pagano said. “It’d be awesome. Injuries are part of the game and we’ve dealt with our fair share, especially on the offensive line.’’
Castonzo has been one of the constants. He and left guard Jeremy Vujnovich are the only linemen to start all 12 games.
But, again, the ever-changing nature of the roster – this year and in seasons past – has made it difficult to put names with faces.
“There are so many people that are in and out,’’ he said. “Over my career, if you’re going to line up every person that I’ve played with, would I know everybody’s name? Probably not.
“I would love to say yes, but the reality of it is there have been a ton of people.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.