The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Sports

September 10, 2012

Colts add Essex to offensive line

ANDERSON, Ind. — One day after rookie quarterback Andrew Luck was hit eight times in a 41-21 loss to the Chicago Bears, the Indianapolis Colts shuffled the offensive line Monday.

The team cut offensive tackle Mike Person and backup center A.Q. Shipley and signed former Pittsburgh Steelers swingman Trai Essex, a Fort Wayne native who has a long history with new Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.

Essex played under Arians for seven seasons in Pittsburgh, advancing to three Super Bowls and winning two. The Northwestern product started all 16 games at right guard for the Steelers in 2009 and opened the 2010 season at the same position. But he was hurt in Week 2 and lost his starting to job to Ramon Foster after three starts following his return.

In 2011, Essex played all five positions on the offensive line as Pittsburgh’s ultimate utility man. He was cut by the Steelers at the end of training camp and said Arians fought to bring him to Indianapolis.

“He went to bat for me,” Essex told the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel. “I know the system, and (the Colts) know what I can do. I’m very comfortable with them. It’s a good match, I think.”

Essex played high school football and basketball at Fort Wayne Harding and helped the Hawks win a Class 2A state hoops title in 2001.

The Colts issued a release confirming his signing, but there was no official comment from the organization on Monday.

Essex joins an offensive line in flux. Left guard Joe Reitz is expected to miss his second straight start with a knee injury, and right tackle Winston Justice is undergoing evaluation after suffering a concussion against the Bears.

Seth Olsen started at guard for Reitz on Sunday, and Jeff Linkenbach filled in for Justice at tackle in the second half.

It’s unclear what role Essex will play in Indianapolis, but the Colts listed him as a guard in Monday’s news release.

Speaking before Essex’s signing, Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano said many of the offensive line’s struggles against the Bears are easily fixable.

“There were some times where certainly we’d love to protect, not give up pressures,” he said. “We got on the right people.”

Pagano said Luck had too much pressure on his final pass attempt of the game, a deep rail route intended for Donnie Avery. Chicago cornerback Tim Jennings undercut the route and made his second interception of the game.

Pagano said the throw was exactly the same as the one Luck made for a 26-yard gain on fourth-and-15 one play earlier, but he didn’t have the room to “step up and put the right amount of velocity on the ball” to make the second throw.

Luck declined to criticize the offensive line, which included left tackle Anthony Castonzo, center Samson Satele and right guard Mike McGlynn.

“I thought they battled their butts off against a really good front four, front seven,” Luck said, referencing Chicago’s defensive line and linebackers. “I think if we get a little momentum going early, maybe it’s a different story in terms of (protection). But I think they did a great job the whole day.”

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