It’s been a rough few days for sophomore guard Ben Ijalana.
Just days after being cleared for full practice at training camp, Ijalana tore the same anterior cruciate ligament – the ACL in his right knee – that he injured midway through last season. Ijalana, before playing a single down in 2012, learned that he will miss the entire season and will have to undergo the same grueling rehabilitation process that he endured last year.
To make matters worse, the front office released Ijalana after learning of his injury. Ijalana was placed on waivers Wednesday, making him available to any of the other 31 NFL teams willing to take a chance on him. If he is not claimed, he will be placed on the Colts’ injured reserve list and will (hopefully) try again with the team in 2013.
The Colts selected Ijalana in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft with the 49th over all
pick. Ijalana formerly played for Villanova University, where he started every game since his freshman year. In 2010, Ijalana became the only Football Champion Subdivision (FCS) player to be placed on the Outland Trophy watch list, an award bestowed upon the nation’s best interior lineman. On Ijalana’s draft day, the Colts traded their 53rd and 152nd picks to move up and select him. In the process, he became the highest-drafted Villanova player in 30 years.
Ijalana showed much promise in his first, although abbreviated (due to the lockout), training camp. The tackle-turned-guard was rumored to show more promise than that year’s first round selection, Anthony Castonzo (OT). But injuries plagued the Colts’ entire offensive line in 2011, and Ijalana himself fell peril to his first ACL injury while trying to carry a larger-than-normal burden as a rookie. He injured himself just four games in to the season.
I’ve always been a big fan of Ijalana, not just because of his talent and promise, but also because of his attitude. You can’t teach character, and Ben Ijalana absolutely oozes character (just follow him on Twitter). He is always happy and upbeat. He has the work ethic of Peyton Manning, constantly “pushing” himself to be better. Ordinarily, suffering another injury would be a crushing blow, but Ijalana has taken it all in stride and vows to come back stronger. The front office who released Ijalana is not the same one who drafted him (the Polians), so the lineman may have more to prove when he returns, but I believe he will do it. He is expected to clear waivers, and I hope he does. Long-term, he can be an asset to his team.
Tackle Ty Nsekhe of the Arena Football League was signed to take Ijalana’s roster spot.
Other Colts News This Week
Training camp went on, and many fans and media members came out to get a glimpse of the 2012 new-look Colts. The professor himself – NFL Insider John Clayton – was in attendance, and he shared some his own observations in this short video.
Ijalana’s release was not the only roster move made by the Colts this week. On Thursday, the Colts released linebacker AJ Edds, who, like Ijalana, tore his ACL in practice this week. Edds will also be placed on the team’s IR list if he goes unclaimed. The Colts also traded with Philadelphia for linebackers Moise Fokou and Greg Lloyd. In exchange for the duo, the Colts relinquished cornerback Kevin Thomas and a conditional 7th round pick in the 2013 draft. Fokou is a four-year veteran who tied for second on the Eagles last year in special team tackles. He has played 43 games, starting 22 of them. Conversely, Lloyd was a 7th-round pick of the Eagles in 2011. He formerly played for the University of Connecticut.
Colts camp is in full swing, and #HorseBytes will be back next week with more updates on the team. You can also follow me at @catierae08 for more.