INDIANAPOLIS – Chris Ballard touched on several topics in his Wednesday Zoom meeting with the local media.
One COVID-19-related issue seemed to draw the strongest response from the Indianapolis Colts’ general manager.
Ballard referred to cornerstones that are critical to getting everyone through training camp and to the Sept. 13 opener at Jacksonville: testing, contact tracing, social distancing, sanitizing and wearing a mask.
“There are some simple, basic things that we can do and one is wearing a mask,’’ he said. “I don’t understand why that is such a controversy in our country right now.
“Put a damn mask on. Why is that so hard? It’s not about you. It’s about everybody else.’’
Other issues included:
Players opting out of the 2020 season
As of Tuesday, 18 players had chosen to opt out for medical and personal reasons, according to the NFLPA.
“None at this point,’’ Ballard said. “I have not had any discussions with players about it.’’
The team had a meeting Tuesday night to detail everything it’s doing to ensure a safe working environment, including the potential medical risks.
The 90-player roster
Teams must trim the 90-player preseason roster to 80 by Aug. 16, and a few already have started that process. The Colts have not.
“We’re going to stick with it right now,’’ Ballard said. “We’ll make that decision here in the next five to 10 days.’’
Workouts at Lucas Oil
The agreement between the league and union allows two camp workouts to be held at the team’s stadium with limited fan attendance. It sounds as if the Colts might hold the two workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium, but fan attendance remains a question mark.
“We’re having some internal discussions about that,’’ Ballard said. “My point was it’s depending on what’s going on in the city. Where are we at? What kind of restrictions do we have? The last thing I want and as an organization the last thing we want is to put anybody in harm’s way. And we won’t do that.’’
Two workouts at Lucas Oil not only would amp up practice, but give players an opportunity to acclimate themselves with their home playing field.
We’re talking ‘bout practice
The cancellation of the four preseason games means the coaching staff must use camp, especially the 14 padded practices that are allowed, to prepare the team for the regular season.
Coaches must balance that preparation with not piling too many reps on the players, but look for more spirited work.
“You’re gonna see more physical practices in spurts, just so we can get ourselves ready to go and so we can be able to evaluate,’’ Ballard said.
Evaluating the young guys
At least one undrafted rookie has made the Colts’ opening day roster for 21 straight seasons. That’s the NFL’s longest active streak. The condensed camp is going to make it more difficult for one of that group to stick.
More difficult, certainly not impossible.
“Look, it’s going to be a challenge,’’ Ballard said. “We’re going to have to set up competitive situations in training camp to be able to really evaluate the player as best we can. The 16-man practice squad . . . is going to help.
“If they’re talented like we think they are – and even the undrafted free agents – they’ll show. We’ll give them a chance to show.’’
Ballard likes this group led by Darius Leonard, Anthony Walker and Bobby Okereke.
“I think we can compare ‘em with anybody in the league,’’ Ballard said. “And they’re all young and athletic and fast . . . everything we want.’’
The kicking competition
Adam Vinatieri is 47, a free agent and still rehabbing from surgery on his right knee. There’s absolutely no indication the Colts consider him part of their future following his 14 productive seasons.
So it’s Chase McLaughlin versus rookie Rodrigo Blankenship.
“We’re gonna have to find ways to make sure that we create enough competition in pressure situations for both McLaughlin and Blankenship,’’ Ballard said. “Frank and his staff have a plan for it, but that’s going to be an interesting one to watch.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.