Finally, the late Howard Mudd pushed Frank Reich too far

Indianapolis Colts

Head coach Frank Reich of the Indianapolis Colts looks on during a game against the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes Benz Superdome on December 16, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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INDIANAPOLIS – Frank Reich, the mild-mannered one, had had enough.

He was an assistant on Tony Dungy’s staff in the mid-2000s – first as an intern, then with offensive quality control, next in charge of Peyton Manning and the quarterbacks room – and had been on the receiving end of one too many tongue-lashings from a master tongue-lasher.

That would be offensive line coach Howard Mudd. His gruffness was only surpassed by his willingness to share it with his colleagues.

“Working with Peyton, I had to go into Howard’s office all the time to talk about the run game and things relevant to the quarterback,’’ Reich said with a fond smile on a Wednesday Zoom conference call.

“I remember going into his office one time, and he had pushed me around one too many times verbally, and I finally just lashed back out on him. It was a good lashing for me, and you guys know me. You can imagine for me to get that worked up and to strike back verbally was a rare instance.

“I let him have it.’’

Mudd sat back, took it in, and filled his office with laughter.

“He said, ‘Uh, I love that. That’s what I love to see,’’’ Reich said. “He’s just an old ball coach.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with him and Shirley. Just have a lot of love and respect for Howard Mudd.’’

Mudd, 78, passed away Wednesday morning at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center from complications from injuries sustained in a July 29 motorcycle accident.

About those RBs

The Colts created a crowded and talented running backs room in April when they selected Jonathan Taylor with the 41st overall pick in the draft. The big-play back out of Wisconsin would be joining Marlon Mack, who’s coming off his first 1,000-yard season.

Reich and coordinator Nick Sirianni have described Mack and Taylor as a “one-one punch,’’ but everything starts with Mack.

“Marlon’s the starter. Marlon’s earned it,’’ Reich said. “He’s had a couple of really good years for us.

“But we’re going to take the same approach that we have where it’s week-in and week-out, hot-hand and all those things. We’re expecting a big year from all our backs, in particular Marlon. He looks good. Just feel good about how the backs complement each other.

“I feel like that’s a strong room for us. I feel like those guys are very unselfish. They’re in it for each other. Marlon needs to be a leader – the way he plays – and we expect him to do that.’’

The Colts featured the NFL’s 7th-ranked run game last season with 2,130 yards, the 9th-highest total in team history. Mack’s 1,091 yards were the most by a Colts since Edgerrin James’ 1,506 in 2005.

So far, so good

Through Monday, 107 players had been placed on the COVID-19 list, either with a positive test or by being in contact with someone who had tested positive. Eighty of those players have returned to the active roster with the required negative tests.

The Colts placed wideout Malik Henry and cornerback Jackson Porter on the list, but each has been activated from it. Henry subsequently was waived, and not because of his positive test.

The 107 players reflect roughly 4% of the training camp rosters. And that’s a sign the players are taking the NFL’s COVID-19-related protocols seriously, according to Reich

“I’m almost surprised how few cases are out there,’’ he said. “There is a little bit of optimism, but I don’t take anything for granted. You take something for granted, then it comes up and bites you, and this is not one thing we want to come up and bite us.

“The testing has been very good. I think guys have done a good job with it. Around the league everybody realizes the seriousness of it, and we’re all trying to learn.’’

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

Listen to the Colts Blue Zone Podcast for weekly coverage and analysis of the Indianapolis Colts.

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