INDIANAPOLIS – Delano Howell and Caesar Rayford came to Indianapolis with the same dream – to make the Colts’ 53-man active roster.
Play well tonight at Cincinnati, and they just might have one of those precious jobs. Play poorly, and their careers could be over by Friday. It’s a pressure-filled, high-stakes situation in a game most NFL fans consider the least meaningful of the preseason.
There are a lot of guys that would love to be in this situation, Rayford said this week. I’m grateful for every opportunity, every game, no matter what it is, I’m going to enjoy it. It’s a blessing and I’m going to live it up.
Howell was bypassed in the 2012 draft but played well enough in the preseason to impress Buffalo’s scouts. The 5-foot-11, 196-pound safety, the lesser-known college teammate of Andrew Luck and Coby Fleener, managed to spend 3 1/2 weeks on Buffalo’s active roster last fall before a demotion to the practice squad. He wound up on Indianapolis’ active roster for the final five regular-season games and the playoff loss at Baltimore, finishing his rookie season with just one tackle.
At 6-foot-7, 267 pounds and armed with a gigantic wingspan, Rayford, a 27-year-old rookie linebacker, came to Indianapolis after stops with the Arena Football League’s Spokane Shock, the Canadian Football League’s British Columbia Lions and the AFL’s Utah Blaze. A late bloomer, who used to carry around a bag of peanut butter, jelly and a loaf of bread just to gain weight, Rayford has put on more than 30 pounds since leaving college and this giant now serves as one of the most imposing figures in Indianapolis’ locker room.
They’ve played well, too.
After three games, Howell leads the Colts with 17 tackles. Rayford had one sack in the preseason opener, two more against the Giants and would have topped that Sunday against Cleveland – if a third sack hadn’t been wiped out by penalty. With five sacks this preseason, he has accounted for half of Indy’s team total.