The Colts released 6-foot-4, 255-pound tight end Ben Hartsock on Tuesday after previously placing him on injured reserve on September 24th. Hartsock had a hamstring injury that forced him to miss the team's entire preseason and the first three games of the regular season before he was moved to injured reserve.
His release is likely an indicator that Hartsock's injury has finally healed and he's interested in playing in the NFL this season. Once a player is put on injured reserve, he's out for the season as long as he stays associated with his current team. And the team is obligated to continue to pay his salary.
But if the player doesn't want to sit out the season and lose a year of playing time, he can negotiate a settlement and be placed on waivers so he can begin looking for a new opportunity. This scenario played out last season with cornerback Donald Strickland, who missed the team's preseason, played in the team's opener at Baltimore, and then landed on the IR after the game with a hamstring problem. He was waived by the Colts on October 25th last year, and he signed with the Eagles about a month later.
Hartsock was entering his third season with the Colts with just six receptions for 41 yards over his first two seasons in the league, but his primary value was as a blocking tight end.
The Colts selected Hartsock out of Ohio State with a third-round selection in the 2004 draft that they obtained from Cleveland. The team traded a second-round pick to the Browns along with a fifth-round selection in exchange for Cleveland's third-round pick, a higher fifth-round pick, and their sixth-round pick. The Browns ended up with safety Sean Jones and DT Amon Gordon while the Colts used their three picks on Hartsock, OG Jake Scott and DB Von Hutchins. Only Jones and Scott, both starters for their respective teams, are now still employed by the teams that drafted them.
Hartsock originally signed a 3-year deal worth $1.474 million that included a $554,000 signing bonus. He was earning a base salary of $385,000 this season, but it's likely the team got some relief from that through the settlement in return for agreeing to his release. He played in all sixteen games as a rookie, including three starts, but last year appeared in just seven games, spending the other nine weeks of the regular season on the gameday inactive list.