Werner eager to get started in Indianapolis

BY foxsports • April 26, 2013

Bjoern Werner still remembers using pass rushers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis on his Madden NFL all-star team.

Now he'll try to replace one and learn from the other -- and it's all stunningly real for the Colts' first-round draft pick.

''I was a young kid then and now I can ask Robert Mathis questions. That's crazy,'' Werner said. ''I can't believe that. I can ask him questions and he can teach me stuff, if he's willing to, but I hope he does.''

Apparently, the German is ready to get started right now.

Less than 24 hours after Commissioner Roger Goodell announced he was the 24th overall pick in Thursday's draft, Werner arrived Friday in Indianapolis.

He said he and his wife are planning to find a new home in Indy. He's still trying to figure out when his parents might actually see him play a football game on American soil for the first time. He's figuring out how to get his parents access to watching all of his games in his home country, and, of course, he's eager to show the Colts what he can do on the field.

For Werner, the fit couldn't be any better.

He'll be playing on the opposite side of one of his childhood favorites, with a team he watched routinely last season, in a system that has had success with similar players and for a coach he already has a fondness for.

''He's different. I watched him on TV and the whole thing last year was so inspiring,'' Werner said of Colts coach Chuck Pagano. ''I'm so happy that I'm playing for him and he's going to start coaching me and yelling at me on the practice field and, honestly, I can't wait.''

The college defensive end figures the screams and shouts are all part of the learning process as he tries to make the conversion to NFL outside linebacker.

Werner will be trying to teach his new teammates and coaches a few things, too.

He spent much of Friday's news conference explaining how a German-born athlete who was initially interested in soccer became such a big NFL fan. The conversion began at age 12 when a classmate brought an American football to school for a game of toss. Soon, Werner was playing flag football, watching the older boys playing tackle football and attending NFL Europe games. He believed NFL Europe would be a launching pad to earning a practice squad spot in the NFL -- until the league folded.

Turns out, he didn't need to go through the developmental league anyway.

After coming to America as a foreign-exchange student, then returning home for a year, and then coming back to the U.S., the Florida State coaches spotted him. All Werner did in Tallahassee was play in all 14 games as a freshman, finish his career with 23 1/2 sacks and 18 passes defensed and be named the 2012 ACC defensive player of the year -- even if everyone wanted to cast him as someone he's not.

He heard every bad nickname in the book -- The Germanator, The Berlin Wall, Bjoern To Be Wild. In some cases, the nicknames didn't make sense because they misused his name. It is Be-yorn Verner.

''Every German football player is The Germanator for some reason. I know three Germanators already,'' Werner said. ''The radio in Tallahassee just did the Von Striker thing. Doesn't even sound German but everyone liked it. ...The second year at Florida State I was a starter and they call your name in the stadium and the guy asked me before, `How do you pronounce your name?' and I told him exactly how to pronounce it and I get out there and he pronounced my name totally wrong. He messed it up so bad that I was like, `Just go back to the English version, this makes no sense.'''

Werner makes perfect sense in the Colts defense.

Pagano expects the long, lanky rookie to help set the edge on runs, replace Freeney as a pass-rusher and take compliment Mathis.

While nobody in the Colts organization, or Werner, wanted to make comparisons to other players, there is one that might make sense.

Before coming to Indy, Pagano worked in Baltimore with a player who had a very similar resume: Terrell Suggs, the Ravens' first-round pick in 2003.

Suggs is listed at 6-foot-3, 260 but some teams were fearful after he ran a 4.84-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.

Werner checks in a 6-3, 266 and, like Suggs, slid down some draft boards after running a 4.83 in February.

Back then, the Ravens insisted Suggs' times meant little because he played faster in pads than shorts. The Colts said the same thing Thursday night.

''You put on the film and he's the first one off the ball every down, he's got great get-off, he can bend and his closing speed is excellent on film,'' Indy general manager Ryan Grigson said moments after taking Werner. ''He plays the game at a higher rate of speed. He just doesn't run 40 yards and I don't think he's going to have to rush the passer in that type of measurement. He's a guy we think plays fast and plays hard and that's a great combo.''

But the Colts will have to wait a little longer to get the answer to a far bigger question: Will Werner play well enough to become a video game all-star like his new mentor, Mathis.

''I've been telling all these coaches that I can't promise you I'm going to be the best pass rusher ever or the best outside linebacker,'' Werner said. ''But I can promise you that I'm going to come in and work hard and be really coachable and I'm going to try to be the best one.''

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