INDIANAPOLIS – With roster cuts coming a week from Saturday, Colts general manager Chris Ballard hopped on The Dan Dakich Show.
Ballard is in the midst of his 4th training camp with the Colts, with the team preparing for their 2020 season opener on September 13th.
Here are some of the highlights:
-On what his expectations for Philip Rivers: “It’s been really cool being around him. Competing against him in Kansas City, I always wondered why he was never talked about in the ‘elite’ category. Because every time we played him, he scared the crap out of us. Just to watch him compete on a daily basis, and then the type of teammate he is, I think that gets overlooked. This guy is a rare teammate. He does not want to let his teammates down. And he sets the pace with his work ethic, his play on the field. The expectations are for Philip to be Philip, be the best version of him he can be and help us win games. The turnovers have to come down. He knows that. Shoot, we don’t go out there wanting to throw turnovers. Philip doesn’t care about the stats. When you are down in a game, he’s trying to win. He’s trying to do whatever it takes to win. Sometimes you have to take some shots and some chances and I think he did that. We haven’t played a game yet, but so far, so good. He knows the offense. I think he’s earned the respect from the players around him in the locker room and now that’ll continue to grow as we get into the season.”
-On taking deep shots with Rivers: “Philip’s mind works very fast. And I think that’s a benefit to what we are trying to do offensively. I think we will take our shots. And I think we’ve got guys who can stretch the field. T.Y. Hilton can get down the field. Parris Campbell can get down the field (Michael) Pittman can get down the field. I think you will see a vertical game. But, because of (Rivers’) mind, and how fast it works, the ability to get the ball out quick and get it some of these kids hands that have good run after catch, I think that’ll be a big part of the offense. I think with what he lacks in scrambling ability and what we’ve had in the past, I think the dumpoffs to running backs and tight ends will help offset that. And we are going to run the ball, too. That’s always going to be a staple for us. It was a staple in ’18 and I think it got overlooked a little bit. When you got to the end of the season and when we really got humming in ’18, it’s because we were running the football and working the short passing game and play-action game for explosive plays. So I think you’ll see a lot of the same stuff.”=
-On what he’s learned about his team so far: “Well, I’ve learned a lot. Let’s just talk about the men we’ve got in this locker room. I’m very proud of them, what they stand for. They’ve taken the challenge. Frank and I really challenged them in the offseason about holding each other accountable, holding us accountable, be willing to speak your mind. Not only from on the field, performance wise, but off the field. That’s been really cool to see these young players grow up, the Quenton Nelson’s, the Ryan Kelly’s, Darius (Leonard), Anthony Walker, Zaire (Franklin), even the guys that aren’t full-time players but are big role players for us, understanding their role, but still having a voice and still holding each other accountable. In terms of football wise, I think we are a pretty talented football team. Watching our scrimmage last week, up front, you wouldn’t know it wasn’t a live game. It was as physical a 110-play practice as I’ve been around, especially in the trenches. I’ll say it until I enter my grave one day, that’s where you win. You win up front in this league and I think we are pretty good on both sides.”
-On the trenches: “Defensively, when you can disrupt the line of scrimmage, it screws up everything. It screws up the run game. When that pocket collapses, it especially helps your edge rushers, when you can get a little pressure (from the interior). Then the O-line, when you know as the game and as the season goes on, they are going to be a strong unit, it just gives you a chance to win each and every Sunday.”
-On not practicing Thursday and focusing on social injustice issues: “I’m proud of our players. I was proud of the organization to take these steps. Our players started the conversations. We had to have some difficult conversations and it didn’t have anything that had to do with football. It had to do with life and what’s going on in our country. I wish the leaders in our country would take the example of what these players are doing. We talk about this with our players all the time. ‘You are protesting. Okay. Where do we go now? What’s the action we are putting behind it?’ And our players have done that. After the incident in Wisconsin this last weekend, you could feel that it was time to take a pause and the players wanted to take a pause and wanted to really work on (something). David Thornton, our Player Engagement Director, is really outstanding and he had a bunch of plans. But our players wanted to put together a plan. They wanted a written plan on everything they were going to make an impact on. I got a little teary-eyed this morning listening to them present it to us. Just the thought, the empathy, the intelligence. It was just a great example for our country. The things they want to work on, the voter registration efforts, the community and police relationships. Ryan Kelly is a big voice on our social impact committee. Ryan’s dad is a 30-year police officer veteran of the police department. To improve those relationships between the black community and the police. Quenton Nelson is heading up the part on food to make sure that kids that aren’t going to school right now are able to get breakfast, lunch and dinner. Zaire on education and working with the Indianapolis Public School (System). These are real, tangible actions they are taking. I’m proud of them. I’m damn proud of them. They worked their ass off yesterday getting themselves organized.”
-On rookie offensive linemen Danny Pinter: “I like Danny. I was excited we got to draft him. I kind of held my breath up until he finally got to our pick. We think Danny has a bright future. We’ve played him in a lot of different spots here. You are talking 8, 9 padded practices so far, but the early results are very encouraging. We’ve played him at guard, center, we kicked him out as a blocking tight end. We are using him in a lot of roles. He’s got a very bright future for the Colts.”
-On rookies Michael Pittman and Jonathan Taylor: “It doesn’t take long to see Pittman and Taylor’s talent. They are very, very talented young men and very mature. They are still rookies and I always remind people that as great as Quenton Nelson and Darius were as rookies, they still had bumps in the road early in their careers and when they first started playing games. There’s still going to be bumps. These are young men who have never played an NFL football game, but saying that, it’s not hard to see their talent when you are watching practice.”
-On ESPN’s Mike Tannebaum calling Marlon Mack’s 2019 season ‘subpar’: “Let me say this, watch the freakin’ tape. You can’t tweet on things if you are not…that’s why I don’t listen to any of that crap. Now, somebody that watches games and watches the tape, he’s got a voice. But how can you say that? Marlon Mack was freakin’ unbelievable. Did he not watch the freakin’ Sunday Night game against Kansas City? I almost cussed on radio. Stupidity on Twitter is at an all-time high right now. Marlon Mack has two 1,000-yard seasons and Marlon Mack is a hell of a player. And then he has a broken hand and misses some games and comes back and plays with a broken hand. Off season, my ass.”
-On the practice balance of training camp: “I learned this from (Andy Reid), you can only do so many meetings. You’ve got to play the game. You’ve got to get reps. It’s the only way you can get better and the more reps you get at doing something, as a unit, and as an individual, the better that you will be. You have to rep stuff. Andy was freakin’ psychotic about it, certain players had to get certain amount of reps to be ready for a game. Frank (Reich) has the same mentality.”