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NFL: MAY 25 Indianapolis Colts OTA

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INDIANAPOLIS For the first time since report day of training camp, Chris Ballard met the media on Wednesday to recap roster cuts and address the Jonathan Taylor saga.

After Wednesday, Ballard is not expected to meet the media for quite some time, with Shane Steichen being the voice of the franchise during the regular season.

What did Ballard have to say?

Initial statement on Jonathan Taylor: “I want to talk, and I want y’all to hear it because I know you’re going to have questions. Just so y’all know and I want everybody to know, Jonathan is a well-respected and really good human being and a damn good football player. I think we all know this. Things like this happen. 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 care level for you.’ I care deeply for Jonathan Taylor. I have great respect for Jonathan Taylor. Our relationship I would tell you is – look, even when it gets hard, I won’t quit on the 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. What sucks – I mean, the situation sucks. 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. 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. They’re repairable. Guys get emotional and take a stance. You’ve got to be able to work through those. Have you ever in your life had a good friend, spouse or family member that you’ve had a disagreement with and then you draw a line in the sand and say, ‘This person is out of my life.’? Well no, I mean, how do you do that? No, you work through it and hopefully you come out the other side better because of it. We’ve got work to do, we do. We’ve got work to do on the relationship and we’ve got work to do to find a solution to the problem, which is what we’re going to do. Now, to answer some questions, did we give him permission to seek a trade? Yes, we did. 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. As for the decision to put him on PUP, it’s when you’re still having effects from last year’s surgery and still having pain and not 100 percent – we’re not going to put a player on the field that’s still complaining with pain in the ankle. I’m not going to do that. I wouldn’t do that to any player. I wouldn’t treat anybody any different. So what Jonathan will do is he will rehab his butt off and try to get himself ready to go.”


-On if Ballard thinks Taylor is lying about pain in the ankle: “What I just told you was he still has pain in the ankle. He has pain in the ankle.”


-On if Ballard has any regrets about how they’ve handled the Taylor situation: “That’s a fair question and I want to answer it because I’ve thought a lot about it. You know me – especially when I know you’re hurting a guy you really care about because he trusts the relationship, that’s hard. 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.’ The one thing I do know is it doesn’t do me any good or anybody any good to sit up here and say, ‘It’s something else’s fault,’ or – no, that’s not productive. It doesn’t help you find a solution. It doesn’t.”


On if Taylor will rehab at the team complex: “Yes.”


On if Ballard will still allow Taylor’s camp to seek out trade offers: “I’m not going to get into trading. I’m not going to get into hypotheticals. I’m not going to get into that. Right now, Jonathan Taylor is a Colt.”


On why Ballard is going against his past precedent of extending top-level players before their contracts run out: “That’s a good question. Here’s what I would tell you, I think you can look this up – we’ve given guys early extensions, we’ve given guys extensions before they went into their fifth year, we’ve given guys extensions who have played their contracts completely out and have gone into free agency and signed them back, we’ve let guys go all four years and then they ended up signing good contracts somewhere else. I think every situation is a little bit 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. So, I think every situation is different.”


On if something has gone wrong with Taylor’s ankle surgery/rehab: “I don’t know if there is anything that is a routine surgery. I think any time you have surgery on your body it’s different and I think everybody heals, rehabs – everybody is different. Like you can’t just stamp one thing and say, this guy is – everybody is just different. There are guys that some get back faster, some guys don’t.”


On the public nature of this Taylor situation has played out: “Well look, I’ve communicated consistently with Malki (Kawa) and Jonathan. I’ve definitely talked to my owner, who has great insight. He’s been doing this a long time. I think sometimes everybody gets a little emotional and I don’t think it does any of us any good right now to complain, point fingers. That’s not productive for what we need to get done going forward.”


On if this situation is having any impact on the Colts locker room: “No look, you’re always concerned. This is the first time I’ve really dealt with this. I’m disappointed because we’ve never dealt with this before. That’s why it sucks. We’ve done a good job making sure (we’re) communicating, making sure the player knew where they stood, what we were going to do going forward. There’s always a first, this happens from time to time. It’s just something that we work through. I will tell you this, our guys in the locker room – I give Shane (Steichen) a lot of credit and I give our coaching staff a lot of credit,  they’re dialed in and working and focused on what they need to do.”


On if Ballard has talked to Taylor since placing the running back on PUP: “To answer, no 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 (Steichen) has talked to Jonathan. That’s something we are going to work for. I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘Okay here, we have the magic answer.’ No, this is complex. This is something we have to work through and find an answer.”


On if Ballard views Taylor as a part of his team’s future: “I sure hope so. 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 for the community. That would be the plan. I’m not going to get into hypotheticals of yay or nay, but I don’t want the indication that we don’t want Jonathan Taylor. That is not true and not true by any – I have never once made that statement. The one thing that never gets mentioned, and maybe it’s because I’ve never really had the opportunity but – everybody keeps bringing up the (franchise) tag and it’s automatic. We’ve never used it. We’ve never been in that situation to use it, but we’ve never used it even when guys hit free agency we haven’t.”


On if Taylor offered to come in and practice, if the team took a future franchise tag discussion off the table: “I never had that discussion about that. They asked if we would use it and I said well, it’s a tool. It is, it is a tool. It’s CBA-bargained. I’m not – the one thing and I told Jonathan this, I don’t want to say something that is not true. I don’t want to lead him down a path and say, ‘Okay give it,’ and then he looks at me and says, ‘You’re a liar.’ That, no. We’re not going to do that. You don’t want to make false promises that you can’t keep, especially with players because the second you do it, you’re done. I know it looks not the best right now, but I know I’ve never lied to him. I know that. I never lied to him.”


On why the Colts let Taylor seek out trade options: “Well, sometimes – that’s fair, that’s a fair question. Sometimes, both sides are beating your head against a wall and you need to see what’s out there. You need to see what’s out there.”


On if he sees a scenario where Taylor plays for the Colts again: “Of course there is. Of course.”


On why a trade of Taylor wasn’t made on Tuesday: “I think I’ve been pretty clear with the way the season went, new coach – I talked about all this at training camp – the way the season went, where we were at and where we were going forward, a new coaching staff, we had some reasons. Nothing major, but there were reasons. We thought we needed to just sit tight…at the end of the day, he is a really good player. If somebody is going to trade for him, I think that needs to be valued correctly.”


On the running back market playing into Taylor’s situation:  “Let me say this – 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, which other people don’t either. 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.”


On if Jonathan Taylor is a great player then why not pay him: “We won four games last year. We won four games.”


On what an offer to Kareem Hunt says about the franchise and how much Ballard stresses high character: “What I will tell you is he’s been in the league a while. Of course, I’m not going to get into specifics on what we did and what we didn’t do but I think our track record there is pretty good. I mean, I’ll never forget when we got slammed for one player we took and he ended up being a really good member of this community. I think our track record, any guy we bring into this building we vet and assuredly we’re going to do everything we can. We’re not going to be 100 percent perfect, but I think our track record is pretty good.”


On if the Colts need to still bring in another veteran running back: “We’re working through it. We’re hopeful with (Zack) Moss, we’re hopeful to get him back really soon. We like what Deon (Jackson) has done. We think Deon has taken another step and we like (Evan) Hull, and we’re going to have some guys on the practice squad we like also. That’s the – this is the shame of, because this has dominated the month. It has overshadowed some of the really good things that have gone on. It’s overshadowed Bernhard (Raimann) and the steps he’s taken. It’s overshadowed what some of these young corners, and they’re young. But a guy like (Jaylon) Jones, a seventh round pick that our scout, Anthony Coughlan, fought like a dog. I’m not going to sit here and lie to you, I had my doubts but Anthony pressed and pressed. We took him and Anthony was right. He was right. This kid is going to be good, like really freaking good. It’s overshadowed all these other stories that are going on. We’ve got a young quarterback that we’re excited about, that is showing really good promise. That’s what you’d like to be able to talk about.”


On if Ballard is worried about what this message sends to the locker room about getting a contract extension: “Why don’t you go ask him? I’m serious. Go ask Ryan Kelly. Go ask all the other guys in that locker room, go ask them. We’ve extended a bunch and we’ve done them at all different time levels. Quenton Nelson went all the way into his fifth season when we were about to start the season. Everybody is a little bit different, every situation is a little bit different. To sit here and say and try to make a statement that we don’t take care of our players – don’t agree with that at all.”


On what went into cutting Darius Rush: “That’s a good question, that was hard. Jaylon Jones.”


On if they could have kept both Rush and rookie cornerback Jaylon Jones: “We’d had to of kept seven corners, so it would have been tough. It would have been tough. Kenny Moore (II) – we think has had a great camp. Tony Brown – I love Tony. Let me just make this known. I love Tony Brown. That dude competes. He’s a great teammate. He’s all-in. Then you have (Darrell) Baker (Jr.). We have Dallis (Flowers) – all these guys that have all come in and played really good football and have really good upside. And they’re all young. JuJu (Brents) is coming along. I do want to talk about JuJu because I do think the upside is really high. He missed the spring with the wrist (injury) and then he had the hamstring (injury) early. So, it’s been a little bit slow here, but the two weeks he was in – we’re excited about him. He kind of had a little tweak again so we’re trying to get our head around making sure we’ve got him right for the long haul. Look, it just happened to be a group that’s young and talented. Nothing against Darius (Rush) – wish him the best. I know he was claimed. Wish him the best. I went back and forth with him earlier about it. He’s very talented, but it was a good group.”


On Michael Pittman Jr. and Grover Stewart in a contract year, and if the organization has a stance not to extend them either right now: “I mean, there’s a lot of guys that are up that are going to be working on their last year. I think we work for it. I don’t ever talk about contracts and where we’re going. Those things work out over time and you’ll know whenever they happen usually.”


On (at the time) having just 3 wideouts on the roster in support Anthony Richardson: “Well, three is because we’re doing roster mechanic stuff. I still think Michael Pittman (Jr.) is a pretty good football player. I still think Alec Pierce has upside and is a pretty good football player. And we really like Josh Downs. We’ll get the rest of it filled out. We’re excited about (Drew) Ogletree. I think you know our thoughts on Ogletree. We’ve always thought highly (of him). It was a big loss last year. We think (Will) Mallory – that was exciting to see him get healthy and show the flashes that he showed. (Kylen) Granson – Granson is a good football player. Every staff that has come in and every quarterback that has come in has liked him. I know the world paints a bleak picture here, but I don’t think it’s as bleak as the world makes it out to be.”


On what gives Ballard confidence that Anthony Richardson can handle the ups and downs of being the full-season starter: “He’s a pretty cool customer. I stayed on the sidelines this year, which I’ve done a lot, but I’ve done it more. I just wanted to feel it and feel him. Look, when he takes off and runs you can feel him. He’s going to have moments of course. They all do when they’re young. He is really poised, even after a bad play, he’s really got some poise to him that’s unique. There are going to be ups and downs – we know it. Everybody in this room knows it, I know it. Everybody knows it. You’ve got to keep stepping up and learn from every situation – the good ones and the bad ones – and keep moving forward.”


On the lack of experience in offensive line depth: “Man, that stunk. That sucked for Danny Pinter. He’s one of the really good dudes and one of the really good players and was having a hell of a game and had a really couple good weeks of practice. That stunk for him. We’ve claimed a couple guys that we think are help. I think we have 11 (offensive linemen) now on the roster. We feel better about where it’s at and where we’re going with it. They are young, but how do they become vets? They have to play. They have to play. You want to line up a bunch of vets? You can do that. Especially on the o-line, we’ve got a couple guys that have been around. I’ve got a lot of faith in Tony (Sparano Jr.) and how he coaches them and what he’s doing. These guys have talent and you’ve just got to grow with them.”


On if not having Jonathan Taylor hurts or stunts the early development of Anthony Richardson: “Look, when you don’t have a great player – but I don’t think it stunts his growth. No, not at all…Did it stunt Andrew’s (Luck) growth without a special back?”


On what he’s learned about Shane Steichen after a training camp: “I’ve said this a million times – he’s all ball now, which I love about him. He’s not a panicker. He’s got a really creative mind of how to use the pieces. So, whatever a player’s strengths are, he’s going to do everything he can to put him in position to do that. Look, Shane (Steichen) is a first-time head coach and I think he’s handled it really well. He’s been great with the team, great with the coaching staff, great with the players – honest (and) working to get him better – that’s what you can ask for.”


On new DE-Isaiah Land: “Any time you have a chance to – we wanted to add some speed off the edge, another guy. He’s a guy we really liked in the draft and just for whatever reason we just didn’t get a chance and he ended up going undrafted and ended up in Dallas. He showed us enough that we said, ‘Okay, now let’s take a shot and get him in here.’ We don’t know when he will be ready. His head coach in college – Willie Simmons – is a good friend and a good guy. He’s just been beating on the table telling us what he thinks his potential is. So, we’ll see. We’ll get him in here tomorrow, start working him and see if we can develop him.”


On the summer safety Nick Cross had: “Really happy for him. It’s not his fault he was 20 years old when we drafted him (laughs). We forget that sometimes – they’re young. This is where I screwed it up. I was so excited about him I put the expectations out there on him and then it just became a little overwhelming for him last year and he didn’t quite perform. Then to watch him work – mentally be able to battle and handle it and then play free safety, strong safety and nickel and then really perform really well. We’re excited about where Nick (Cross) is at and where he’s going.”


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