Ryan Kelly was the steadying force for the offensive line last season. The Indianapolis Colts’ first-round draft pick was one of 11 rookies and one of five offensive linemen across the NFL to start all 16 games.
What a difference a year makes.
Kelly’s second season ended earlier this week when the lingering effects of a concussion suffered Nov. 26 against Tennessee led the team to place him on the injured reserve list. He practiced the previous two weeks with the intention of going through the NFL’s concussion protocol and playing against Buffalo and Denver, but each time failed to gain medical clearance.
“Ryan had a tough year,’’ Chuck Pagano said. “In and out (of the lineup) and dealt with a bunch of different things, and certainly you don’t want to mess around with the concussion stuff.
“Everybody recovers probably differently than everybody else, so it’s not something you’re ever going to mess around with. Did the right thing.’’
The concussion was the final injury hurdle Kelly couldn’t clear in a season plagued by injuries.
He underwent surgery during training camp after suffering a broken bone in his left foot during the Colts’ Aug. 10 joint practice with the Detroit Lions. That forced him to miss the first four games of the season. Kelly also suffered a knee injury Oct. 22 against Jacksonville that kept him out of the second half.
“I know he was frustrated,’’ offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski said Wednesday. “I don’t know that he ever got the chance to get healthy this season.
“Seems like every time that he was turning the corner there, it was something else. He was playing with quite a few things along the way even when he had the string of games he played in.
“He’s a leader for us. (He) helped out even when he wasn’t in. I feel for him this year. I know he’ll be back and better than ever.’’
The byproduct of Kelly’s injury-plagued season was a revolving door at the position. For the first time since the team’s relocation in 1984, it has started four different centers: Kelly, Deyshawn Bond, Mike Person and Anthony Fabiano. Adam Redmond played in the second half against he Jaguars after Kelly exited with his knee injury.
“The guys have done a good job of picking up for (Kelly) and wish he was out there, but it’s always next man up,’’ quarterback Jacoby Brissett said.
Having Kelly in and out of the lineup impeded the development of the offensive line. The center and quarterback work in tandem at making pre-snap reads and adjustments.
“That’s probably the most important position on the offensive line as far as getting guys in the right calls and making sure they’re all on the same page along with that relationship that guy has with the quarterback,’’ Chudzinski said. “When there’s different things going on and moving parts in that area, it’s not ideal.
“I think back to some of the best teams and best combinations of quarterbacks and centers. Those guys almost lived together and watching tape. I’m sure you guys saw that years and years here as well.’’
From 1999 through 2010, Peyton Manning and Jeff Saturday were virtually inseparable. They shared 170 starts, an NFL record by a quarterback/center tandem.
Long IR list: The Colts’ injured reserve list is impressive, for all the wrong reasons. It consists of 16 players, including 12 who were starters or front-line players.
The prominent players on the list: quarterback Andrew Luck, Kelly, Bond, outside linebacker John Simon, inside linebacker Jon Bostic, guard Jack Mewhort, defensive lineman Henry Anderson, safety Malik Hooker, tight end Erik Swoope, running back Robert Turbin, cornerback Pierre Desir and return specialist Quan Bray.