- Mike Wells, ESPN Staff Writer
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He patiently made his way along the fence at Anderson (Ind.) University signing autographs until there were no more fans in the area Friday. The rest of Werner’s teammates had already departed -- some even already in their car heading back to Indianapolis after the final day of training camp.
Werner had to show patience last weekend when the team decided to hold him out of the preseason opener just hours before kickoff because of a knee problem.
But Werner, the No. 24 pick in the draft, will finally get a chance to make his debut when the Colts take on the New York Giants on Sunday.
“I was so anxious last week to play but then it was like a game-time decision and now I just can’t wait to get out there and finally play again,” he said. “It’s my first game in a long time. I’m really excited.”
Having to adjust to the NFL isn’t the only thing Werner is dealing with.
Werner was a hand-on-the-ground defensive end at Florida State, where he totaled 23.5 sacks with the Seminoles. The Colts, however, are using him as a stand-up outside rush linebacker. Werner will likely be used as a pass-rusher in nickel packages.
The Colts aren’t putting pressure on Werner. They know it’s a transition for him. That’s why Werner is playing behind veteran Robert Mathis, who had to adjust from the 4-3 scheme to coach Chuck Pagano’s 3-4 scheme last season.
“He’s got a long way to go, as we know, going from a guy that played with his hand in the dirt and very rarely stood up to a stand-up outside linebacker,” Pagano said. “The transition is never easy but Bjoern’s a smart guy. We said back in the offseason program, OTAs and minicamp, he adapted pretty quickly. But just the technical things, the fundamental things, he’s doing well but he’s got work to do.”
With Dwight Freeney (five sacks) now in San Diego -- and reportedly having a good training camp -- the Colts are looking for another pass-rusher to compliment Mathis, who had a team-high eight sacks last season. Jerry Hughes (four sacks) is also gone.
“The guys they brought in, they brought them in for a reason,” Mathis said. You just have to trust in it, trust that he’s going to get the job done. Nobody is trying to replace anybody, just trying to come in and just do what you are brought in for.”
Mathis knows he’ll be the one counted on to put pressure on the quarterback until somebody steps up.
“That’s kind of the anticipation, but hey, it comes with the territory right?,” he said.
That person could be Werner at some point. But be warned, you’ll likely need to show patience until he gets comfortable in his new position.