INDIANAPOLIS — Offensive linemen aren’t supposed to be the ones having fun. The only time you really hear about them is when they give up sacks, get called for a penalty or deliver a block that sends a defensive player flying.
But the Indianapolis Colts‘ offensive linemen — a group that gave up an NFL-low 18 sacks last season and is still in the top 10 with 25 sacks allowed this year entering Monday night’s game against the New Orleans Saints (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN) — are some of the funniest guys on the team.
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“I hang with them a lot,” Colts tight end Jack Doyle said. “I don’t know why, but that’s how it works. They may not show all the time, but they all have great personalities that have you laughing a lot with them.”
Their personalities were on display four weeks ago against Jacksonville when Quenton Nelson, the enforcer on the line, shifted from his left guard position to fullback, took a handoff from quarterback Jacoby Brissett and plowed through — with an extra nudge from Eric Ebron — for what appeared to be a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Then they had some fun.
Right guard Mark Glowinski knelt down and center Ryan Kelly grabbed Nelson’s right leg, right tackle Braden Smith grabbed the left leg and both lifted Nelson in the air while he had both hands on Glowinski’s back, acting like he was doing a keg stand as if he were at a party back at Notre Dame.
“We practiced it, so now it was just a matter of executing it,” Glowinski said. “I told them, ‘I’ll be the keg because I know I can get the job done.’ I might not have been seen as much [as the other linemen], but I played an important role. That might go down as the best [celebration] of all time.”
The touchdown was overturned because it was determined that Nelson didn’t cross the goal line, but the celebration still went viral.
“Everybody has big personalities,” left tackle Anthony Castonzo said. “We don’t like to put our personalities out there. That’s for us. … We’re full of humor, but we try not to show it because we prefer to avoid the spotlight.”
Full of humor?
That might have been hard to believe before seeing Nelson in a hot tub singing a Cardi B song while on vacation during the offseason, and definitely before they choreographed the keg stand routine during practice.
The Colts have made it a habit to celebrate after big plays since Frank Reich was hired as coach, especially touchdowns. It’s rare when Nelson isn’t part of the celebration, dancing or slapping hands with his teammates.
And it’s not just one guy on the line who is funny, they say.
Nelson, believe it or not, is the funniest of the group. Castonzo, the elder statesman of the line, is also the one who tells the old-man dad jokes. Kelly is sneaky funny. Glowinski can’t crack a joke without it ending with a sly smirk on his face. Smith is the quietest.
“Everyone brings something different to the table,” Nelson said. “Everyone is different. There’s so many personalities that we’ll mesh together on the O-line.”
“I’d say we’re the tightest on our team,” Kelly said. “We fight the same way we joke around, too. It’s kind of hard to be warm and fuzzy all the time.”
The Thursday night group dinners started several years before the likes of Smith, Nelson and Glowinski joined the team.
There are no coaches, no spouses, no other position groups. Just the offensive linemen. This isn’t abnormal because other position groups do it, too. But the offensive linemen are a unique group.
It’s there that they’ll give Nelson a hard time on how he lined up as the fullback and then ran into the flat thinking he was a receiver while hoping Brissett would throw him the ball for a touchdown against Houston in October. Or when they make the rookie linemen roast their fellow teammates or stand up and sing in public in front of strangers who then shoot videos and post it on social media.
“We’re very self-deprecating,” Castonzo said. “That comes with the territory of being an offensive lineman. We’re not afraid to jump on somebody.”
Offensive line coach Chris Strausser, who is in his first season with the Colts, stands about 6 feet tall and can’t be any more than 200 pounds soaking wet, coaching players who easily outweigh him by more than 100 pounds and several inches. But Strausser, in the same way he doesn’t hold back in criticizing their play when necessary, doesn’t hold back in talking about his 30-plus years of coaching experience.
“They certainly get on me when I show old clips of where I’ve been in my career,” Strausser said, laughing. “They tell me I have to let it go and move on because it’s been so long, longer than some of them have been born. And my size, they really give me a hard time about that. Typically that humor comes out when the door is shut. Out front, they want to set the tone for the offense. They have to be serious when out on the field, but when the door shuts, everybody’s humor comes out. Hopefully mine as well.”
Not all humor is clean. Plenty of comments have been made that are meant to stay “in house” because they’re not suitable for everybody.
“I feel like everything is so tight now,” Glowinski said. “I don’t know if it’s because everybody wants to have some kind of decision how the world is going to be. But people have to relax. We know what serious matters are, but you should also know right or wrong when somebody is joking. Everything seems so sensitive these days. It’s OK to have fun.”
The Colts have been decimated by injuries this season.
The offensive line has been spared, for the most part. The Colts have started the same line group every game this season.
That has played a part in their success.
The Colts are sixth in the NFL in rushing yards per game (133.4) and fourth in the league in pass-block win rates at 64.7%. They’ve given up the ninth-fewest sacks this season.
“You hear all the time it’s not great individuals who win — it’s great teams,” offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said. “It’s very important for these guys to spend time together. Because if you know a guy and you and him go out and play football together and you kind of know each other, you have sold out yourself to get the job done.
“You’re also selling out for them, too, and it’s not just about getting your job done. You need to get your job done so you don’t let your friend down, too. They love each other. They’re really tight with everyone.”