INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Nov. 25, 2015) – Even by Joe Reitz’s standards, this has been a season like none before it.
“The more you can do, right?’’ the Indianapolis Colts’ veritable Swiss Army Knife said Friday with a widening smile. “That’s the truth, and that’s never been more true for me this season.’’
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday, Reitz will make his 36th career start, but his first at left tackle while Anthony Castonzo deals with a sprained right knee. He started the previous eight games at right tackle.
The Colts preach positional flexibility in the offensive line meeting room, and the sermon always finds Reitz’s receptive ears. His six-year resume with his hometown team – he’s a product of Hamilton Southeastern High School – includes 12 starts at right tackle, 19 at left guard, three at right guard and one as an extra lineman.
“That’s the life in the NFL, and that’s life as a lineman,’’ Reitz said. “We know this game is a war of attrition. You’ve got to be ready at a moment’s notice to step in here, step in there.’’
You’ve got to be ready even when you’re asked to do something that’s not even remotely part of your primary job description.
Remember Reitz being targeted by Andrew Luck on a tackle-eligible pass against the New York Jets? It was second-and-2 at the Jets’ 11-yard line, and failed miserably.
Remember one of the Colts’ adventuresome third-and-1 situations in Sunday’s win at Atlanta? In the third quarter, Matt Hasselbeck was under pressure and tried to make something out of nothing. He lateraled to Reitz, who lumbered forward and slid before picking up the necessary 36 inches.
“Not much of a runner,’’ coach Chuck Pagano said with a laugh. “Told those guys ‘Throw that play out.’ We won’t be running that one again.’’
“Use the term ‘carry’ loosely,’’ Reitz insisted.
Had the Colts not rallied for a 24-21 victory over the Falcons, Reitz’s misadventure probably would have been added to the list of other botched opportunities in key situations this season.
Instead, the uplifting afternoon in the Georgia Dome allowed his teammates and friends to tease him incessantly.
You only needed stinkin’ 1 yard? Don’t slide, for cryin’ out loud!
“It was tough,’’ Reitz said. “You’re getting it in the locker room by all the linemen, then you’re getting it from all your buddies around Indianapolis who are texting you non-stop.
“I’m just happy we got the win and we can laugh and joke about it.’’
At one point, Reitz was able to dish out some good-natured trash talking.
When someone in the media asked Hasselbeck about his decision to lateral the football to Reitz, the 40-year old QB said he had “a mid-life crisis.’’
Reitz’s response to Hasselbeck: “Well, you’re kind of getting around that age when something like that happens, so I’ll give you a pass if you give me a pass.’’
As Reitz jogged to the Colts’ bench following his too-short rushing attempt, Pagano stopped him briefly and asked why he didn’t plow ahead for the necessary yard.
“From his vantage point, it was probably ‘What’s that guy doing?’’’ Reitz said. “Now knowing that . . . I’ll be more prepared next time.’’
Film study only reaffirmed the wacky nature of the unique situation.
“I kind of paused for about a half-second, not quite sure that to do,’’ Reitz said. “In my mind I was thinking it was going to be an illegal touch, which usually is the case. My whole thought was ‘It’s going to be a penalty. Just get down. Don’t fumble the ball. Don’t do anything stupid.’
“I saw bodies coming and I went back to my third grade. They teach you how to recover a fumble and go fetal-position. I come to the sideline and they’re like ‘That was a lateral. That was a play.’ Then you realize you were a half-yard short.’’
Reitz’s non-running talents aside, the Colts again are relying on his versatility in a time of crisis. While he’s played left tackle in preseason games and gotten significant reps at that spot during the offseason and training camp, you probably can count his regular-season exposure on two hands.
At Atlanta, he took three snaps at left tackle after Castonzo went out on the Colts’ final possession. Castonzo had been at left tackle for all 713 offensive plays before injuring his knee, and logged an NFL-high 1,090 plays in 2014.
Now, more adapting for Reitz. Flipping from one side to the other isn’t as simple as it sounds.
“It’s definitely different,’’ Reitz said. “Everything’s opposite. But I got all of that cross-training in early-on, so it’s just a matter of tapping into all of those snaps I got in the past.’’