Business of Colts’ camp, possible extension has Ryan Kelly’s attention

Indianapolis Colts

Ryan Kelly #78 of the Indianapolis Colts before the game against the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images)

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INDIANAPOLIS – There’s business to get done, but there also was the business at hand.

So, what’s Ryan Kelly’s assessment of, you know, business? Or businesses?

First, there’s the business of a possible extension. He’s entering the fifth year of his rookie contract as the 18th overall pick in the 2016 draft.

Kelly’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, has been in contact with the Indianapolis Colts, presumably general manager Chris Ballard, regarding that extension.

“He’s incredible of what he does,’’ Kelly said of Sexton on a Monday Zoom conference call, “so I hope he gets it worked out.

“Just trying to focus my mind on doing training camp. I’m hopeful (the extension) will happen soon.’’

As zeroed in as he is on the 14-hour workdays at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, Kelly is human. The extension always lurks in the back of his mind.

“I can’t say I wouldn’t think about it,’’ he said. “It’s your future. It’s what you’re going to be making and how many years you’re going to be there.’’

When consummated, the extension should average $11-12 million per year with at least $20 million in guarantees. He’ll be one of the NFL’s highest-paid centers, perhaps even No. 1 on the list.

Kelly hasn’t hidden his desire to continue his working relationship with the Colts. He’s coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance, as an alternate, and is anchoring arguably the NFL’s best offensive line.

But along with the business of finances and securing long-time security, Kelly also is in the midst of his fifth camp experience.

In the COVID-19-impacted training camp, Monday was the first day players were allowed in pads. Consider it a comfort zone of sorts, albeit with high humidity and temperatures in the mid-80s.

 “Yeah, lot of fun having the pads on for the first time . . . and it’s about 100% humidity this morning,’’ Kelly said.

Perspiration drip, drip, dripped off the tip of his nose.

“I’m covered in sweat right now,’’ he said with a smile, “and I’m sitting on a towel, so I guess I sweated enough. We’ve got that going for us.’’

Damp, got it.

The pads-on work – there will be total of 11 – is the next phase of the Colts’ condensed camp. It’s when everything ramps up – tempo, physicality, urgency and yes, sweat – with the Sept. 13 opener at Jacksonville looming.

There aren’t four preseason games to use as graduated work and hone continuity, even considering the top-drawer nature of Kelly and the Colts’ offensive line.

Besides, this is Kelly’s day job.

“It’s football, man,’’ he said. “It’s training camp. That’s the way it is. That’s what we love. That’s what you come for. That’s what you grind for.

“This is year 5 in doing it in the NFL. It never gets any easier, but as you get older you love the competitiveness of training camp and know how much vital teamwork you get.’’

That includes the highly-anticipated offensive line vs. defensive line work. More specifically, that includes Kelly and the interior working against defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.

“He brings a certain level of energy to that defensive line that’s contagious,’’ Kelly said. “Obviously if you look at the guy, he’s 6-7 and 300 pounds. When you add that to the kind of speed and his length, he’s hard to block.

“He’s making us better, and I hope we’re making him better at the same time.’’

As everything is ramped up, Frank Reich finds himself dealing with a delicate balancing act. He must push the players as much as possible while keeping in mind there’s a limit.

“It is a balance,’’ he said. “There’s no perfect formula. We’re always assessing things. We have a schedule that’s based on a lot of history.

“We’ve all been around this game for a long time. We know how long things take typically. So you just put all out heads together and you put your foot on the gas as long as you can (and) you back off at certain times.’’

Time is short, and precious.

“We also have a sense of urgency knowing that we have 11 padded practices before that first week,’’ Reich said. “Really the goal and the mindset is to make the most out of those 11 practices in pads, starting with today.

“Today was a really good day. It was just great to get back out there: physical, fast, guys were smart. We got a lot done.’’

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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