INDIANAPOLIS – There were a few opening remarks.
About the wide-angle view of the roster.
About the difficulty of trimming the roster to 53 players.
“You never get to the point you’re callous about it.“
About how prepared the Indianapolis Colts are for their Sept. 10 opener against Jacksonville.
“We’re not by any means a finished product right now.“
Then Chris Ballard cut to the chase. He understood the overarching theme of Wednesday’s press conference.
“All right,” he said. “So now let’s address the elephant (in the room), Jonathan.”
He spent the bulk of his 25-plus minute chat not just explaining how the Colts and star running back Jonathan Taylor have reached loggerheads – impasse, stalemate, deadlock, call it what you will – but offering optimism the splintered relationship can be repaired. That’s even after allowing his offensive catalyst to seek a trade that didn’t materialize prior to a team-imposed Tuesday deadline.
Ballard wasn’t combative at the prospect of the Colts being without Taylor for at least the first 4 games of the season after being placed on the reserve-physically unable-to-perform list.
Taylor, he insisted, still is experiencing pain following a Jan. 25 surgery on his right ankle and is “not 100%.”
“We’re not going to put a player on the field that’s still complaining with pain in the ankle,” Ballard said. “I wouldn’t do that to any player.”
Taylor will work with the team’s medical/rehab staff in Indy until he’s able to pass a physical and step on the practice field. Ballard is “confident’’ they can produce the desired results.
Does Ballard consider Taylor part of the Colts’ immediate future? The NFL’s 2021 rushing champion requested a trade when the team informed him in the spring it would not be offering an extension.
“I sure hope so,” Ballard said. “That’s the way I look at it. I think he’s a really good player. I think he’s a great kid. I think he’s great in the community. That would be the plan.
“I’m not going to get into hypotheticals of ‘Yay or nay’ . . . I don’t want the indication that we don’t want Jonathan Taylor. That is not true. I have never made that statement.”
Ballard always has cultivated close relationships with his players. Yes, there often are difficult personnel decisions to make, but he never loses sight of the person he’s dealing with.
That’s why he was conciliatory, not combative while discussing Taylor.
“I tell every rookie that comes in here, ‘There’s going to be a point when we disagree, and it’s usually about money and it’s going to be hard. And just know that doesn’t change my level of care for you’,” Ballard said. “I care deeply for Jonathan Taylor. I have great respect for Jonathan Taylor.
“Look, even when it gets hard, I won’t quit on a relationship. I won’t do it. I think too much of the young man. I think too much of what he’s given our organization and how hard he’s played for us.”
Then, Ballard addressed the obvious.
“The situation sucks,” he said. “I’m not going to sit here and give you some rosy picture like everything is OK. No, it sucks. It sucks for the Colts, it sucks for Jonathan Taylor and it sucks for our fans. It does.
“(But) it’s where we’re at and we’ve got to work through it, and we’re going to do everything we can to work through it. Relationships are repairable. Guys get emotional and take a stance. You’ve got to be able to work through that. . . . You work through it and, hopefully, you come out the other side better because of it.”
Here are Ballard’s comments on a few other Taylor-related issues:
Allowing one of the team’s best players to pursue a trade:
“Yes, we did. I’m not going to get into the details of teams, what was offered and what wasn’t offered. But what I’m going to tell you is, Jonathan is valuable and at the end of the day, I’m not going to just let him walk out the door. I’m not going to do that. That’s not the best thing for the Colts and the organization.”
Was there anything more you could have done to avoid this situation?:
“I’ve thought a lot about that. You know me, especially when I know you’re hurting a guy you really care about because (Taylor) trusts the relationship.”
“I’ve felt I was very honest with all my discussions. I’ve thought through what we could’ve done differently. I’m sure both sides would probably tell you, ‘Man, I wish I would’ve done something a little bit different.”
After giving extensions to so many other players, why not Taylor?:
“I think every situation is a little different. And I explained this during camp, coming off last season, it’s tough. You won four games, you’ve got a brand new coaching staff and all the circumstances surrounding it.”
Did the declining running back market impact your decision?:
“The running back market is what it is, but I’ve said this all along: Quenton Nelson, didn’t have a problem paying a guard a lot of money. When guys are having great seasons and having a chance to really help your football team, absolutely. The running (back) market is what it is, but great players are what they are, too.”
If Taylor is a great player, why not pay him?:
“We won four games last year. We won four games.”
It seems Taylor doesn’t want to be in Indy. Any concerns he could be a negative influence in the locker room?:
“No. Look, you’re always concerned. This is the first time I’ve really dealt with this. That’s why it sucks. This happens from time to time. It’s just something that we work through. Our guys in the locker room – I give Shane (Steichen) a lot of credit and our coaching staff a lot of credit – they’re dialed in and working and focused on what they need to do.”
How do you fix this if neither side budges?:
“I have not talked to Jonathan. I have communicated with his agent. I will talk to Jonathan here in the next day or two. I know Shane has talked to Jonathan. That’s something we are going to work for. I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘OK, we have the magic answer.’ No, this is complex. This is something we have to work through and find an answer.”
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.