When Anthony Castonzo first arrived in Indianapolis in 2011 as a first-round pick out of Boston College, he figured he would be a short-timer.
He wound up starting at left tackle for the next decade.
The Colts’ longtime offensive line anchor announced his retirement Tuesday, three days after a postseason loss at Buffalo and less than two weeks after undergoing season-ending surgery on his right ankle.
“If you would have told me after training camp my rookie year that I was going to have a 10-year career, I would have laughed in your face,’' the 32-year-old Castonzo said during a video call. “I would have been like, ‘I can’t block anybody in the NFL’ because Dwight Freeney did that to me.’'
Clearly, the Colts knew better when they drafted the BC alum with the No. 22 overall pick.
Indy envisioned Castonzo being Peyton Manning’s blindside protector into the foreseeable future. But a neck injury kept Manning out of the entire 2011 season. Manning was released in March 2012 before the two ever took a snap together.
Still, Castonzo managed to deliver on his promise.
He won the starting job as a rookie and played in 152 games including playoffs — sometimes with one of the league’s best offensive lines, sometimes with one of the NFL’s worst. Regardless, Castonzo did his job.
“For 10 seasons, Anthony consistently handled premier pass rushers at one of the toughest positions,’' team owner Jim Irsay said in a statement. “He quickly developed into the leader of our offensive line and set a standard for preparation, strength and conditioning and play. Anthony deserves a tremendous amount of credit for helping our offensive line mature into one of the best units in the NFL. He will sorely be missed.’'
Castonzo considered retiring last year before signing a two-year deal to stay in Indy.
This season, he missed four regular-season games because of rib, knee, and ankle injuries and went on injured reserve before the wild-card game. Castonzo said the injuries played no part in the decision, only that it helped cement the feeling it was the right choice.
“I talk to Andrew [Luck] really regularly. He and I are still very good friends,’' Castonzo said “I talked to him just saying, ‘What’s it like?’ I didn’t really need to do it because I’ve seen it. I mean I still hang out with him and see him a bunch, but yeah I definitely leaned on him because he’s been through the process.’'
Castonzo developed a niche for keeping quarterbacks such as Luck, Philip Rivers, and Matt Hasselbeck upright while also paving the way for three 1,000-yard runners — Frank Gore, Marlon Mack, and Jonathan Taylor.
Though he never was selected to the Pro Bowl or All-Pro teams and never played in a Super Bowl, the Illinois native said he leaves with no regrets.
What’s next? Losing weight, relaxing, and perhaps a future in scouting.
“I actually talked to Ed Dodds a little bit because they would send you things like, ‘What did you think of this player you played against?’ ’' Castonzo said, citing Indy’s assistant general manager. “I took a lot of time and I would send our personnel guys pretty detailed descriptions of what I thought of different players. He was like, ‘If you ever have any idea of getting into the personnel department, just let me know.’ I like watching football film and I could tell you what I think of players. I could maybe get into that in the future, but nothing in the immediate future. I’m ready to take a little break from football.’'
The Seahawks fired offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer following a season in which the team set several offensive records but coach Pete Carroll had clear issues with how the offense operated.
Seattle announced the move, citing “philosophical differences.” The Seahawks had the highest-scoring team in franchise history, Russell Wilson threw a career-high 40 touchdowns in the regular season, and wide receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett both set club records for receiving.
Still, the Seahawks regressed offensively in the second half of the season, and Wilson and Carroll both made comments following Seattle’s 30-20 playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams that indicated concerns with the lack of adjustments by the offense late in the season.
Browns await help
As the Browns anxiously wait for Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio and top cornerback Denzel Ward to return from COVID-19 and join their playoff run, the team lost their replacements to injuries. Cleveland placed guard Michael Dunn (calf) and cornerback Robert Jackson (hamstring) on injured reserve, losing two players who started Sunday’s 48-37 wild-card win at Pittsburgh while Bitonio and Ward remain sidelined with the virus.
It’s not yet known if or when Bitonio or Ward will be back.
Veldheer hops to Packers
Offensive tackle Jared Veldheer was signed by the Packers and practiced Tuesday, giving him an opportunity to compete in playoff games for different teams on back-to-back weekends. The Packers host the Rams on Saturday in an NFC divisional game. Veldheer, 33, was the Colts’ starting left tackle for their final two games, including a 27-24 AFC first-round loss to the Bills last weekend. Because the Colts merely elevated him from the practice squad for game day and didn’t officially sign him to their 53-man roster, the Packers were able to sign him this week . . . Two additional games on wild-card weekend resulted in somewhat diluted ratings for the NFL. The six games averaged 25.1 million viewers on television and online, which is a 20% drop from last season’s per-game viewership on the first playoff weekend, according to the league and Nielsen. Last year’s four wild-card games, two of which went to overtime, averaged 30.5 million viewers . . . The Bills signed running back Devonta Freeman, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher, to their practice squad to add veteran depth after placing rookie Zack Moss on injured reserve. It’s unclear if he’ll be up to speed in time for Buffalo’s divisional-round game against the Ravens Saturday.
Watson gets support
Former Texans Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins voiced support on social media for quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is unhappy and wants to be traded by Houston. Multiple reports surfaced last week that Watson was upset that owner Cal McNair didn’t take his opinion into consideration before hiring general manager Nick Caserio and wanted out of Houston.
If I’m @deshaunwatson I will stand my ground. The Texans organization is known for wasting players careers. Since Jack Easterby has walk into the building nothing good has happened in/for the organization and for some reason someone can’t seem to see what’s going on. Pathetic!!!— Andre Johnson (@johnson80) January 12, 2021
Other reports indicated that Watson was further angered that the Texans hadn’t asked to interview Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy for their open coaching position. Houston has since requested to interview Bieniemy.
“If I’m @deshaunwatson I will stand my ground,” tweeted Johnson, who is retired. “The Texans organization is known for wasting players (sic) careers. Since Jack Easterby has walk [sic] into the building nothing good has happened in/for the organization and for some reason someone can’t seem to see what’s going on. Pathetic!!!”
Not long after Johnson’s tweet, Hopkins, who spent seven seasons in Houston, retweeted it and added: “When Dre speak listen.”
Burrow makes strides
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow expects to start running on his surgically repaired left knee next month and is confident he’ll be ready to start the 2021 season. “I’ve always been a fast healer,” Burrow said in a Zoom session with reporters. “We’ll see how this goes when we get closer to the season, but I’m very confident I’ll be ready to go.” Burrow suffered torn ligaments in a Nov. 22 loss to Washington and had surgery in early December . . . The Raiders hired Gus Bradley as their new defensive coordinator with the task of turning around one of the league’s worst units. Coach Jon Gruden decided to bring on the experienced Bradley, who has been the Chargers’ defensive coordinator for the past four seasons after posting a 14-48 record as Jacksonville’s coach, to fill the role Paul Guenther had for the first two-plus seasons on his staff before being fired in December . . . The Seahawks agreed to a contract extension with general manager John Schneider that will keep him tied to the franchise through the 2027 draft . . . The NFL said there were three new confirmed positive COVID-19 tests among players and 22 new confirmed positives among other personnel in the latest round of testing by the league . . . The Lions acquired linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton off waivers from Washington.