INDIANAPOLIS — The depth chart lists the guy with the complicated last name as the backup free safety to a two-time Pro Bowl player.
One doesn’t have to be an authority at reading between the lines to deduce that Joe Lefeged, while an important part of the Indianapolis Colts, might not be on the field for as many defensive plays as he would like.
It’s all good, though.
Now in his second season, Lefeged (pronounced Le-fej) is rapidly emerging as the Colts’ acknowledged leader within the fearless band of crazies known as the special teams units.
The Lefeged File
Name: Joe Lefeged
Weight: 205 pounds
Born: Durham, N.C.
High school: Northwest (Germantown, Md.)
College: Rutgers University
Drafted: Signed by Colts as undrafted free agent in July 2011
Did you know: Played in college for current Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano; his 21-yard punt return at New England was the team’s longest in 2011; finished last season with two interceptions, 31 tackles and 31 kickoff returns for an average of 18.6 yards.
“Special teams is a big part of the game. Each week in this league you see a game won or lost because of special teams,” said Lefeged, 24. “It starts with our special teams coach and the emphasis he puts on it.
“Since OTAs (organized team activities) we have been focusing on the little things.”
Among the organization’s myriad offseason changes came new special teams coaches in Marwan Maalouf and assistant Brant Boyer. The latter made a 10-year living playing in the NFL with Miami (1994), Jacksonville (1995-2000) and Cleveland (2001-03) and was special teams captain for both the Jaguars and Browns.
Boyer’s words ring true with Indianapolis players. He’s been there. He knows. So while special teams players have been known historically for a sense of reckless abandon, it’s the intricacies of the craft that usually draw the line between success and failure.
“It may be basic, but the little things take care of the big things,” Lefeged said. “A hand placement here, a step there. That’s helped us out a lot this year.”
Lefeged at times is brought in on defense to spell starting free safety Antoine Bethea or strong safety Tom Zbikowski. Thus, his tackle total through Indianapolis’s first two games (five) isn’t going to turn heads.
Like he said, though, it’s the little things.
Twice in the season-opening loss at Chicago Lefeged motored his 6-foot, 205-pound frame downfield in time to swat back two Pat McAfee punts so a teammate could down the ball inside the 5-yard line. One set the table for linebacker Jerrell Freeman’s four-yard interception of a Jay Cutler pass for a touchdown and a quick 7-0 Colts lead.
Signed by the Colts as an undrafted free agent in July 2011, Lefeged played the role of Swiss Army knife as a rookie with 31 tackles and two interceptions while also stepping in as the team’s primary kickoff returner with 31 for an average of 18.6 yards.
Lightheartedly remembering himself as “a one-cut guy” on kickoff returns, Lefeged claims he doesn’t really miss that aspect of Sunday afternoons. These days, it’s all about flipping the field, making sure Indianapolis has the best field position possible on punt and kickoff returns and that the opponent has the worst.
“We’ve got some fast guys back there returning kicks. There’s T.Y. (Hilton), Cassius (Vaughn) and LaVon Brazill,” Lefeged said, smiling. “I’m happy with the role I have.”
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