INDIANAPOLIS – At times, it sounded as if Marlon Mack was saying goodbye to the only NFL home he’s known.
The veteran and popular running back with the Indianapolis Colts was addressing the media Thursday afternoon, a few days after asking the team for a trade. It had become crystal clear to Mack that, barring an injury to Jonathan Taylor or Nyheim Hines, he was nothing more than a spare part in the running backs room.
Monday, less than 24 hours after being a healthy scratch in the loss to the Tennessee Titans, he approached general manager Chris Ballard about exploring trade options.
“Just had an agreement with what’s best for me,’’ Mack said. “They were just all with it. They supported me 100%. It’s a mutual agreement I would say.’’
It takes two to swing a trade, but there’s no lack of teams dealing with injuries and lack of top-end talent at running back.
Is Mack confident there’s a place in the NFL for a 25-year old running back who in 2019 rushed for a career-high 1,091 yards and eight touchdowns, and, it must be noted, is barely 13 months removed from a torn Achilles?
“I don’t know yet,’’ he said. “It’s the NFL. It’s crazy. You never know.
“I’ve just got to continue working hard for this team and get a W.’’
The Colts are in South Florida Sunday for a date with the Miami Dolphins, seeking to snap their 0-3 start. It’s very likely Mack once again won’t step on the field, especially with Ballard looking for a trade partner.
“I’m just being patient. That’s one thing I do well,’’ he said. “Be a good human I would say overall. Just have good imaging around guys and don’t be negative.’’
If a trade is arranged, Mack would leave behind the team that brought him into the NFL. The Colts selected him in the fourth round of the 2017 draft (143rd pick overall).
“Yeah, it definitely would be hard,’’ he said. “I’m going to miss my guys, especially our room. It’s great being in there. We love each other. We cheer each other up.
“That’s something that’s going to be tough. I’m definitely going to miss it because everywhere you go it’s not going to be like that. Here, it’s family. It’s something I’m used to, but times change I guess.’’
Mack was sandwiched between two of those “family members’’ during Thursday’s meeting with the media: Ryan Kelly and Taylor.
Kelly, the team’s Pro Bowl center and a first-round draft pick, was part of that 2017 draft class. He has witnessed Mack’s ascent, season-ending injury and comeback from the torn Achilles.
“It’s tough,’’ he said. “I’ve known him since he first got here. He’s an incredible competitor, even better teammate and better guy.
“Coming back from that type of injury in general is very hard. I think it just goes to show you the resiliency he has and . . . seeing Jonathan Taylor’s success I’m sure is tough, too.’’
The Colts envisioned the offense featuring a formidable Mack-Taylor tandem in 2020. They considered Taylor a rare talent and too good to pass up in the second round of the draft – 41st overall – even though Mack was coming off his first 1,000-yard season and still was just 24.
After Mack ruptured his right Achilles in the season opener at Jacksonville, the run game revolved around Taylor. He finished third in the league in rushing with 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns. He set a franchise record with 253 yards in the season finale against the Jaguars.
Mack’s contract expired at the end of last season and after considering other options, chose to re-sign with the Colts with a guaranteed one-year, $2 million contract.
“I knew I could come back here and help this team,’’ Mach said. “But things change.’’
He had hoped to be involved in the running back rotation, but that hasn’t been the case. Mack dressed but didn’t play in the opener against Seattle, was active and handled 13 snaps in the week 2 loss against the Los Angeles Rams and a healthy inactive in Sunday’s loss to the Titans.
It was after the idle afternoon in Nashville that Mack decided to make his concerns and wish for a trade known to management.
“I think we’re all competitors,’’ Kelly said. “We’re all Alphas in that room. But one thing I never saw from him was any selfishness. He was always trying to help the room.
“I just saw the news a couple of days ago – trade, stuff like that – but even yesterday at practice you never saw any hesitation by him or not wanting to be there. He’s just a team guy, and I respect the hell out of him for that.’’
It seemed appropriate that as Mack left the pressroom, Taylor stepped in.
The two have grown close, and Taylor always has been quick to praise Mack for the support he offered even while dealing with his Achilles rehab.
They naturally talked after Mack asked for a trade.
“I definitely thanked him,’’ Taylor said. “I already thanked him last year. Just the tough time he went through and he was still sending me text messages, talking to me – good game, bad game – just let me know, ‘I saw this. Maybe you could do that better.’ Or ‘Great job.’
“He didn’t have to do that at all. He could have just straight, locked in, zoned in and focused on his rehab, which I’m sure he was. But took time to not only reach out to me, but the other guys in the running back room. Just shows the kind of leader he is. I think that’s what helped me last year get rollin’ a little bit just by taking his advice and putting my little spin on it.’’
As much as Mack has been an integral part of the team’s fabric the past four-plus seasons, it’s time to move on. And he knows it.
“Yeah,’’ he said. “That’s the part of the business. That’s what you’ve got to do sometimes (but) it’s tough because you get used to guys.
“This is the business side. You’ve got to speak for yourself sometimes.’’
Mack is confident he’s overcome the Achilles and can help some team. Remember, in 2018-19, he rushed for 1,999 yards and 17 TDs, and averaged 4.5 yards per attempt. He set a franchise record with 148 yards in the Colts’ 2019 first-round playoff win at Houston.
And, again, he’s 25.
“Yeah,’’ he said with a smile. “I’m definitely young. That’s the thing. In this business as a running back, they say I’m an old man already, but I’m only 25.
“That’s why it’s like, ‘Man, I’ve got to go out there and get it now.’ Next year teams may be like, ‘Yeah, I don’t want that old running back.’”
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.