INDIANAPOLIS – Jonathan Taylor is back, and the Indianapolis Colts’ star running back made it crystal clear he’s looking ahead and not at a contentious past few months.
He also did little to address his long-term commitment to the team. If fact, he routinely sidestepped the issue like an oncoming linebacker.
During an 11-minute press conference Thursday – his first public comments since mid-June – Taylor expressed eagerness to attack his first full practice since Dec. 15. He went through a walkthrough on Wednesday.
“My No. 1 goal is really to attack this first practice,’’ he said. “It’s been over 290 days, so my main goal has been to attack this first day.’’
As for whether he’s “all-in’’ following his return to the Colts, Taylor was evasive. He’s in the final year of his rookie contract that pays him $4.3 million, and the crux of his offseason quarrel with the team was a desire for an extension that would pay him in line with being one of the NFL’s premier backs.
When that didn’t materialize, Taylor requested a trade.
“Right now, I’m here,’’ he said a couple of times.
“I don’t think it matters if I’m saying I’m committed or not because I’m here. If somebody wasn’t committed, they wouldn’t be here.’’
Taylor was placed on the active-physically unable to perform list at the start of training camp and moved to reserve-PUP Aug. 29. The latter roster move required him to miss the first four games of the season.
He finally passed his physical this week following prolonged rehab from Jan. 25 surgery on his right ankle and was designated to return to practice.
Shane Steichen has left the door open for Taylor to play Sunday against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium. His availability hinges on how he responds to practice.
“That’s the question I don’t know,’’ Taylor said. “I haven’t had a first (full) practice yet.’’
Why did the rehab take so long? The recovery for that type of procedure performed by Dr. Robert Anderson in Green Bay – a debridement to clean out loose particles in the ankle – generally is a month.
There were individuals within the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center who believed Taylor could have passed a physical at the start of training camp in late July.
“Everyone heals different,’’ Taylor said. “No surgery is the same.’’
Taylor insisted numerous times his overriding goal the past several months was making certain his right ankle was fully healed.
“First off, feels really good to finally be healthy,’’ he said. “My No. 1 goal was to be healthy . . . to be able to go out there and do what I love, which is play football.’’
He was given multiple opportunities to address what became an acrimonious relationship with the team that selected him in the second round of the 2020 draft.
Taylor repeatedly dodged the issue.
“I’m not here to get into any contract things,’’ he said. “Those were over the course of this season.
“But the season is here. We’ve got the Tennessee Titans on the clock.’’
Near the end of his press conference, Taylor again was asked:
Do you want to be a Colt?
“Listen, like I said, I’m here right now and my No. 1 thing is to take care of my teammates,’’ he said. “A lot of people worry about what I want. Doesn’t matter necessarily what I want.
“What matters is what this team needs, what this team wants, what this city wants and what this city needs. What this city needs is a championship and while I’m here, that’s what I’m going to work my tail off to do.’’
Taylor’s teammates eagerly welcomed him back.
“I’m excited just for him being able to come back on the field,’’ rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson said Wednesday. “I know it’s been a while for him being on the field. I know he’s excited to be back and I’m excited to see what he does with me.’’
Added linebacker Zaire Franklin: “We love JT. We care about him, even more than a player, but as a person. His family, his wife, all that stuff. It’s deeper than that.
“Looking forward to having him back. Need him. Always love to have him around. Like I said, that’s my guy. Jersey boy.’’
Taylor said he’s remained in contact with his teammates during his lengthy rehab.
“They asked me every day, ‘Hey, how you feelin’?’’ he said. “”I tell them, ‘I’m inching closer and closer.’
“It’s just an awesome feeling when you’ve been working so hard to get to a certain point and now you’re finally back doing what you love.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.