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Indianapolis vs. New Orleans
When: 6:25 p.m. Sunday
Where: Miami
TV: CBS Radio: 1380 AM

Veteran Diem anchors offensive line

Right tackle hoping to finish game after breaking bone in ’07

Diem

– Colts right tackle Ryan Diem certainly would like to earn his second Super Bowl ring, but he has an even more modest goal Sunday.

“I’m looking forward to playing the whole game this time,” Diem said with a smile.

Diem broke a bone in his foot during the second quarter of Indianapolis’ last Super Bowl, a victory over his hometown Chicago Bears.

That’s one of the few hiccups in an otherwise steady career.

Since his second season in 2002, Diem has been entrenched as a starter on the Colts line. In his eight full seasons as a starter – he was a part-time starter as a rookie at right guard and moved to tackle in 2003 – he has started at least 15 games five

times. He was the only member of the line to start all 16 regular-season games at one position last season.

He would have started 16 this season had the Colts not held out some of their starters for the regular-season finale. Diem rested for that one but said last week his body feels good.

And that’s a good thing for the Colts.

“He has been outstanding,” coach Jim Caldwell said of Diem. “There is a guy that you can depend on week in and week out. He is very steady. He is very mature. He’s been around awhile. When you don’t have to worry about a position, you know he is going to take care of his spot, there is a huge comfort level in that.”

Left tackle Charlie Johnson, who said he’s been tutored by the older Diem, offered a similar assessment.

“He’s seen everything,” Johnson said. “He’s been with Peyton (Manning), so he has that experience. He just brings a steady presence on this line. He’s always playing well. You hardly ever see him out of position.”

Diem considered last season his best individually, in part because he was able to stay healthy, and he rates this season as “pretty solid.”

It has shown in the offensive line’s productivity.

Five times during Diem’s career, the Colts have led the NFL in fewest sacks allowed. That includes giving up only 13 sacks in the regular season this year, the lowest in the last decade.

“That’s where we pride ourselves, is as a group looking at stats like sacks allowed, pressures, hits on Peyton,” Diem said. “As long as we’re keeping him clean, he’s piling up the yardage and the touchdowns and things are going pretty well.”

Though the Colts running game ranked last in the NFL in rushing (80.9 ypg), Diem said he thinks that’s not an accurate representation of the production in that area.

“Our running game wasn’t exactly where we wanted it as far as stats-wise, but it seems like we’re efficient when we need a run and when we need a few yards, we can get them.”

sclardie@jg.net

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