ANDERSON — As Bjoern Werner finished signing autographs for a portion of the estimated 6,200 fans who attended Sunday’s afternoon practice at Anderson University, he was collected by an Indianapolis Colts media relations staffer on a golf cart.
At midfield, the cart stopped abruptly so the outside linebacker could hop out and haul in two pairs of shoulder pads. The numbers on the jerseys hanging from them were clearly visible - 90 (Cory Redding) and 98 (Robert Mathis).
Carrying the veterans’ pads is part of the rookie’s daily routine. And like nearly everything else about his NFL experience thus far, Werner welcomes it with open arms.
“I mean, if that’s the hazing, I’ll take it,” he said. “It’s not that bad, really not that bad.”
That’s also a pretty fair description of Werner’s first full week of professional football. The former Florida State star is working behind Mathis at the rush linebacker position in the base defense and playing with the first unit essentially as a defensive end in nickel packages.
He said on draft day that he was eager to learn from Mathis, whom he used as an avatar when he played Madden NFL video games growing up in Germany, and now he’s soaking in as much as he can from the 11th-year star.
“He never really pulls me aside just because I go straight to him,” Werner said. “He’s a great guy and just a great mentor and just a great person.
So I can go over to him and talk to him any time, and it’s a lot of fun.
Maybe other teams would be like the old guys would pull away, (say) to the rookies, ‘Don’t talk to me, don’t talk to me.’ But him and Cory are just in the locker room right next to them. We’re just talking every time. They make me feel comfortable.”