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Colts take guard
INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts promised to find more protection for Andrew Luck this offseason.
They’re still looking for reinforcements.
After signing two possible new starters on the offensive line in free agency, the Colts added another big body to the mix by using their only pick Friday on Illinois guard Hugh Thornton late in the third round.
“He was targeted since we woke up this morning,” general manager Ryan Grigson said. “Our grades consistently from the entire staff, you know, mine, even (new Chargers GM Tom) Telesco’s, they’re all consistent with being a really, really talented guy playing at a consistent level.”
It can only help.
A year ago, the Colts pieced together an offensive line that allowed 41 sacks, ninth-most in the league, and dozens more hits. There were times Luck was hit so awkwardly that opponents were penalized.
All those hits sent team owner Jim Irsay, coach Chuck Pagano and Grigson into the offseason in total agreement that the protection had to be better in 2013.
Grigson opened the offseason by immediately signing right tackle Gosder Cherilus from Detroit and guard Donald Thomas from New England. Both could start on a line that returns left tackle Anthony Castonzo, Indy’s first-round choice in 2011; center Samson Satele, who was signed as a free agent last season and Mike McGlynn, who started all 16 games at right guard.
Thornton could help in several ways.
At 6-foot-5, 320 pounds, he gives the Colts the size, strength and nasty demeanor Grigson likes. He also adds versatility. Last season, Thornton played left tackle and wound up as a second-team all-Big Ten selection by the coaches. He played well enough at the Senior Bowl that Grigson noticed.
Thornton played in 42 career games for the Fighting Illini, starting 35 at guard and tackle.
Associated Press
Former Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner shows off his No. 1 Thursday after the Colts selected him in the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night.

Colts’ pick eager to play with Mathis

– Bjoern Werner still remembers using pass rushers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis on his “Madden NFL” all-star team.

Now he’ll try to replace one and learn from the other.

“I was a young kid then and now I can ask Robert Mathis questions. That’s crazy,” said Werner, the Indianapolis Colts’ first-round draft pick. “I can’t believe that. I can ask him questions and he can teach me stuff, if he’s willing to, but I hope he does.”

Less than 24 hours after Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the German-born player was the 24th overall pick in Thursday’s draft, Werner arrived Friday in Indianapolis.

He said he and his wife are planning to find a new home in Indianapolis. He’s still trying to figure out when his parents might actually see him play a football game on American soil for the first time. He’s figuring out how to get his parents access to watching all of his games in his home country, and, of course, he’s eager to show the Colts what he can do on the field.

On Day 2 of the draft Friday, the Colts selected guard Hugh Thornton in the third round. The 6-foot-5, 320-pound Illinois alum adds depth to an offensive line the Colts have tried to reinforce through free agency.

For Werner, the fit couldn’t be any better.

He’ll be playing on the opposite side of one of his childhood favorites, with a team he watched last season, in a system that has had success with similar players and for a coach he already has a fondness for.

“He’s different. I watched him on TV, and the whole thing last year was so inspiring,” Werner said of Colts coach Chuck Pagano. “I’m so happy that I’m playing for him and he’s going to start coaching me and yelling at me on the practice field and, honestly, I can’t wait.”

Werner spent much of Friday’s news conference explaining how a German-born athlete who was initially interested in soccer became such a big NFL fan. The conversion began at age 12 when a classmate brought an American football to school for a game of toss.

Soon, Werner was playing flag football, watching the older boys playing tackle football and attending NFL Europe games. He believed NFL Europe would be a launching pad to earning a practice squad spot in the NFL – until the league folded.

Turns out, he didn’t need to go through the developmental league anyway.

After coming to America as a foreign-exchange student, then returning home for a year, then coming back to the U.S., the Florida State coaches spotted him. All Werner did in Tallahassee was play in all 14 games as a freshman, finish his career with 23 1/2 sacks and 18 passes defensed and be named the 2012 ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

Pagano expects the long, lanky rookie to help set the edge on runs, replace Freeney as a pass-rusher and complement Mathis.

While nobody in the Colts’ organization, or Werner, wanted to make comparisons to other players, there is one that might make sense.

Before coming to Indianapolis, Pagano worked in Baltimore with a player who had a similar résumé: Terrell Suggs, the Ravens’ first-round pick in 2003.

Suggs is listed at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, but some teams were fearful after he ran a 4.84-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.

Werner checks in a 6-3, 266 and, like Suggs, slid down some draft boards after running a 4.83 in February.

Back then, the Ravens insisted Suggs’ times meant little because he played faster in pads than shorts. The Colts said the same thing Thursday.

“You put on the film and he’s the first one off the ball every down, he’s got great get-off, he can bend and his closing speed is excellent on film,” Indianapolis general manager Ryan Grigson said moments after taking Werner. “He plays the game at a higher rate of speed.”

– Associated Press