It’s safety first for Colts’ T.J. Green

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T.J. Green

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It’s the latest catchphrase: positional flexibility.

It’s Hassan Ridgeway, the Indianapolis Colts’ fourth-round draft pick, possessing the versatility to play all three defensive line positions.

It’s Austin Blythe, a seventh-round pick and 33-game starting center at Iowa, working at guard during the on-going rookie minicamp.

But it’s not T.J. Green, a second-rounder with intriguing size and speed, bouncing from safety to cornerback.

At least during the early phase of his NFL career, the former Clemson standout is a safety. Period.

“We have to get the safety spot down and let him get comfortable there and figure out what he’s doing,’’ coach Chuck Pagano said. “We threw enough at him to where he’s spinning quite a bit just after the first day, but you’re looking at a really good-looking athlete.

“I wouldn’t put any limitations on him.’’

Green is a 6-3, 205-pounder who entered Clemson as a wide receiver. His 4.34 40 time was the fourth fastest of any prospect at any position at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. With his length, speed and athleticism, some teams considered Green a cornerback prospect during their pre-draft evaluations.

The Colts, from the first time they saw him to April 30 when they used the draft’s 57th overall pick on him, were steadfast in their expectations.

“He’s a safety,’’ Pagano said during the draft. “He’s played safety and that’s where he’ll start for us.’’

For his part, Green is simply taking it one day at a time. Step one was being handed his gear, including jersey No. 32.

“When I first walked in the equipment room to get my helmet I was in awe about it,’’ he said. “I actually have an NFL helmet and it has my name on it and it has my number on it.

“It’s just a special feeling for me to finally be on this level. I’m just excited about the whole process. I’m going to come in every day and work, work to show these coaches what I can do for them. You have to come out and compete every day and just be your best.’’

The decision to allow Green to work exclusively at safety makes sense. He’s still something of a novice at the position after leaving Clemson with a year of eligibility remaining. After spending his freshman year at receiver, he moved to safety. His experience at that position consists of two years, 26 games and 16 starts.

“He’s got a lot of unique athletic (ability) and just overall traits physically to work with,’’ general manager Ryan Grigson said. “At the beginning of the process before you watch the film you’re like, ‘OK, he’s a former receiver. We’re looking at a project here.’

“But collectively . . . everyone that was part of the process felt like he had a really great upside because on the film you didn’t see a player that you really thought lacked instincts or lacked awareness.’’

The Colts anticipate Green making immediate contributions on special teams – a “four-core’’ player, according to Pagano – and should figure into coordinator Ted Monachino’s various “sub’’ packages when a linebacker or two are replaced by additional defensive backs.

Perhaps the Colts use both Clayton Geathers, the projected starter alongside Mike Adams, and Green in passing situations. Geathers has the size (6-2, 215) to play close to the line of scrimmage or cover tight ends while Green could either cover a slot receiver or drift back and play deep safety.

In that regard, Green’s positional flexibility is important. But it will remain within the position of safety.

There is no lack of confidence. He anticipated being selected sooner than No. 57 overall.

“I felt like I was a first-round talent,’’ Green said. “I felt like I was a first-round pick and I feel like (the Colts) got a first-round player in the second round.’’