Indianapolis Colts re-sign lineman Ben Heenan
Heenan says no lingering affects from injury that sidelined him last summer
Ben Heenan's first NFL season was certainly an eventful one, even if he didn't make it on the field for a regular-season game.
The six-foot-four, 316-pound offensive linemen signed with the Indianapolis Colts as free agent Feb. 4, 2015 and went to training camp before suffering a knee ailment and being released Aug. 7 with an injury settlement.
The 25-year-old native of Grand Coulee, Sask., then rejoined the Colts on their practice roster Nov. 3 for the remainder of the season before re-signing with them Tuesday night.
No better group of guys to spend the 2015 season with. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/IndyFam?src=hash">#IndyFam</a> <a href="https://t.co/aLBoKUOthn">pic.twitter.com/aLBoKUOthn</a>—@BenHeenan65
So as Heenan prepared to return to Saskatchewan on Wednesday night, it was with the understanding he has a rare second chance to crack Indianapolis's roster.
"It's a seat at the table and when you're in my position that's kind of what you need more than anything," said the former University of Saskatchewan star. "Obviously staying healthy is a huge part of it.
"Training camp didn't end the way I wanted but in this line of work you kind of need to be able to crush things in a hurry and move on so I didn't try to dwell on it for long. But where I am now, it's an opportunity going into next year to show what I have and what I'm capable of."
3 seasons with Roughriders
Heenan joined the Colts following three seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders after being selected first overall in the 2012 CFL draft. He made 49 starts with the Riders, helping them capture the 2013 Grey Cup.
Heenan said he has no lingering affects from the meniscus injury that sidelined him last summer.
"Near the end of the season everything was really starting to pick up," he said. "I was really feeling good about where I was at."
When Heenan reported to the Colts, he not only had to adjust to a new team in a new city but also a different game. American football is played on a smaller field than in Canada with an extra down and no yard of separation on the line of scrimmage.
And although Heenan had some prior experience playing American football, it was only for a week at the East-West Shrine game in January 2012.
"It's something you get used to pretty quickly . . . it becomes the new norm," Heenan said. "I wouldn't say it took too long."
It also didn't take Heenan long to get back into the swing of things upon rejoining the Colts.
"I was here for all the off-season and throughout (organized team activities) so it was kind of a refresher," he said. "Obviously I was behind in terms of getting back used to it again but it wasn't like I was getting air-dropped into an unfamiliar situation."
Dan Vertlieb, Heenan's Vancouver-based agent, agreed.
"Indianapolis is a good fit for Ben," he said. "He's very comfortable, both in the community and locker room, and we think there's a great opportunity for him to hopefully play a bigger role there next season."
Missing home, following Riders
Keenan said he also quickly adjusted to being outside his native province after playing there collegiately as well as the start of his pro career. But Heenan did keep tabs on the Riders, who struggled to a CFL-worst 3-15 record in 2015.
"I miss home as much as everyone here . . . but I think it was good for me to kind of step outside of my comfort zone a little bit," he said. "Even though they (Riders) had a bit of a tough year in '15, I think everyone around is looking forward to them rebounding in 2016.
"Many people there are the reason I've been able to get this far. I am very thankful for everything the Rider organization did for me and will always be thankful for that."
Heenan won't have to adjust to a new coaching staff when he returns to Indianapolis. Head coach Chuck Pagano, who led the Colts to an 8-8 record despite an abundance of injuries — including to starter Andrew Luck — received a four-year contract extension at season's end, a move Heenan said was a popular one.
"Any time you can keep as much continuity as possible, that's obviously a good thing for the team," Heenan said. "I mean, Coach Pagano is such a great guy and a great coach as well that everyone around here was happy to see he's coming back.
"I really enjoy playing for him and look to continue that going into next year."