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Sunday, June 6, 2010
Will changes help Tony Ugoh, Mike Pollak?

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- Minicamps and OTAs produce free positive publicity. Everyone is happy. No one’s lost a game.

Writers warn readers about reading too much into anything, and some players who shine at this time of year annually disappear come training camp and end up among the football unemployed.

Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian hates getting caught up in things with minimal meaning.

So ask about two young offensive linemen trying to get back into the lineup, Tony Ugoh and Mike Pollack, and he offers only this:

“Thus far OK,” Polian said. “We’re not playing now. There is a tendency in the parallel universe to want to judge everybody. The first thing I tell the coaches is, ‘Don’t make any judgments until after the first two weeks of training camp, it’s not fair to the players.’ So thus far, they’ve had good offseasons. But that’s all they are. We’ll see.”

The line could be just one man different than last season’s, with guard Ryan Lilja gone, or there could be a bigger shakeup. Long-time position coach Howard Mudd retired and Pete Metzelaars has taken over.

I wondered if guys like Ugoh, who’s moved from tackle to guard and is getting first look at left guard, and Pollak, who had fallen out of favor, could benefit from a clean slate with Metzelaars, new coordinator Clyde Christensen and new assistant offensive line coach Ron Prince.

Polian downplayed that idea, but veteran center Jeff Saturday thinks there is something to it.

“Everybody gets a clean slate every year,” Polian said. “Every year is a new year, each team writes its own story… The past means nothing. Everybody starts with a clean slate and, you hope, good health."

Said Saturday: “We’ve had a lot of changes in our offensive staff, and those [two] guys are getting new life. They have an opportunity to take advantage of it. Both those guys were high draft picks for us. Obviously from the team’s perspective, they want them on the field. When you draft guys that’s what you want to happen.”

Polian talks about throwing the whole group into a pot and sorting through it during training camp. Even with Mudd gone, the team president looks for the same process to unfold.

“Our history here has been that every year we throw 14 or 15 offensive linemen into the pot and Howard has taken out his ladle and worked around for the five weeks of camp and out of it comes an offensive line that’s in the top three or four in the league in giving up sacks and that plays exceptionally well,” Polian said. “I don’t doubt that will be the case this time around even though Howard is retired.

“Who that will be I have no idea at this point.”