- Mike Wells, ESPN Staff Writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Look at the Indianapolis Colts’ roster and Lance Louis is just one of 14 offensive linemen.
Go back to November 2012 and Louis had started the first 11 games of that season for the Chicago Bears. But his season -- and his career -- changed when Bears quarterback Jay Cutler threw an interception and Louis went after the ball only to end up on the ground in the pain after Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen delivered a hit that left Louis in pain and with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
After being out of the NFL last season, Louis is back in a familiar position for now. With Donald Thomas not taking part in OTA’s because he’s working his way back from a torn tendon in the quad and bicep, Louis has been working with the first-team offense at left guard.
“It’s been a long road back,” Louis said. “I like being the guy nobody really knows about. It means I can sneak up on people.”
The Colts signed Louis in January to help an interior part of the offensive line that struggled last season. Louis didn’t play last season after being released by the Miami Dolphins toward the end training camp. He worked out with a trainer in Louisiana and acknowledged he didn’t get the same extensive rehabilitation he would have if he were with an NFL team.
"A guy like Lance Louis, I felt he was better than those (free agents) who are out there right now," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. "He was a guy who two years ago started for the Bears."
Grigson first spotted Louis in 2012.
"I was sitting watching the Bears (on tape) with Tom Telesco when we were preparing for them," Grigson said. "I look at the tape and I said, 'Who's No. 60?' I look him up in the system and the guy ran a 4.72 (40-yard dash) at 309 (pounds) coming out of San Diego State. He was faster than some of the receivers who are going to go in the second round this year.
"So, we're watching that and we're thinking, in free agency, this guy is going to break the bank because he's the best player on their line. He gets his knee blown out and things change. We stayed on him all (last) year and the knee's fine now and we have him here for two years. Hopefully he gets back to that level of play where he's a good starter. He's a guy who is completely off the radar who we're optimistic about."
Louis, who has started 28 of the 41 games he has appeared in, is part of the mix at guard. He is competing with Thomas, who will likely retain his starting position, rookie Jack Mewhort and Hugh Thornton, who has been working with the first-team at right guard.
“This is a franchise that you want to be a part of,” Louis said. “It’s all about winning and it’s going to be good competition for playing time. That’s only going to make us better.”