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INDIANAPOLISAs the Colts hit their bye week, Chris Ballard sat down with the folks at Colts.com to talk about his 5-5 football team.

This was the first time we’ve heard from the Colts GM in the regular season, so he covered a ton of topics on the team’s official podcast.

Here are some of Ballard’s thoughts in sitting down with JJ Stankevitz (Colts.com writer) and Larra Overton (Colts Producer, Host, Reporter):

-On Shane Steichen handling things to this point to be 5-5: “I give the coaching staff, Shane and the players a lot of credit, especially with all the in and out of the quarterback position, offensive line, secondary. We’ve had to make a lot of adjustments along the way which is typical in a season. But here’s the thing I really enjoy about Shane, it doesn’t faze him. You never hear woe is me, it’s like, Who we got up? All right, let’s find a way to make it work.’ And that’s really encouraging. We got a lot we have a long way to go and a lot of work to do. But encouraged, 5-5, I mean, of course we’d like to be better. We’ve also been in some very tight games that we thought could have gone either way. But that’s where we’re at. Focus on Tampa (after the bye).”

“Anytime you’re doing something for the first time, you’re going to have some bumps. I thought this came out really strong in the interview and he’s very authentic, he is who he is. He’s not trying to be somebody he’s not. And I think players gravitate to that. They appreciate somebody that is the same person each and every day and their personality. And I appreciate that about him. He’s very demanding. He wants what he wants. And he’s going to tell you and that look that makes my job and my staff’s job a lot easier when you know, ‘Hey, I need this, to make this go.’ And he’s real with himself and every day and he’s real with himself. Like he doesn’t just sit there and blame people when things go wrong. No, he takes accountability when it’s his fault and he’ll hold the players accountable when it’s their fault.”

-On the team at 5-5 and the team closing out the final 7 games: “I’ve always thought the season really starts at Thanksgiving. You don’t want to play yourself out of it. That’s for sure. But this last seven game, stretch, you know usually determines, who’s going to get in. You always see that each and every year somebody comes from the back of the pack and gets playing good football. But the one thing I think we got to stay focused on is Tampa. That’s it. There’s no looking forward. We’re not there to where we could just roll the ball out and say we’re going to get a victory, so we got to worry about Tampa. We’ve put ourselves in position to do some really good things. But none of it means anything if we don’t get the next win.”

-On Jonathan Taylor’s contract extension: “I mean, look, business, the business end of this can get dicey at times, and emotional. I think once we finally kind of took a step back and evaluated it for what it is and who Jonathan is, we want to do everything we can to keep as many homegrown players as we can. That’s been our history, and I think we got a pretty good track record of it and get a player that’s been highly productive for us. And that’s been great, not only in the building, but in the community, we think is very important. And we think going forward, I mean, Jonathan is 24 years old, he’s still young. He’s still a young player, we think has a really, really bright future ahead of him. He’s starting to get going. And I still think we haven’t seen the best of what he will be. And then I don’t want to kind of push to the side with Zack Moss has done. Zack Moss played not good football, played great football for us. And I know this last game the carries got a little out of whack with Jonathan getting the most of him. I know our staff will work hard. Because both Jonathan and Zach need to be involved for us to be successful.”

-On Anthony Richardson and his shoulder surgery: “I walked in on the back end of Andrew and his surgery, so I saw what Andrew went through. I saw the long rehab process and what he did before I got here. And then after getting multiple opinions on the shoulder, kind of my history of knowing how important your throwing shoulder is on any rotational athlete, any throwing athlete. The shoulder has to be right and I think at the end of the day, it’s a hard decision, but the best decision for the player (Richardson) was to get it fixed now. And get it done where going forward it won’t be any more issues. Surgery went well, rehab is going well. And we’ll get him back, next season. It’s a tough pill to swallow because you want him to get those reps, those live reps, but it kind of is what it is. I mean, you can’t map out. When things happen like this, they happen and you keep moving forward.”

-On Richardson’s emotions dealing with this: “Anthony is a really unique young man. I think you saw it with his play. There was never a moment of panic with him. He’s disappointed. Of course he was. I mean, he wanted to continue to play. He actually sent a great message to the team right before surgery. He sent a voice mail to Shane and Shane, played it for the team. It was really heartfelt from the heart, how much he cared and how much it bothered him that he wasn’t playing. But he is far more mature, for a kid that young man that just turned 21 years old and then I expected.”

-On what Richardson showed the Colts GM as a player: “All the notions of raw ,needed work, he exceeded my expectations. Now we saw the poise college, but the accuracy, his instincts, his ability to create, I think all that was on full display. There’s no doubt things he has to work on, protecting himself being one. He’ll learn that. I think all young quarterbacks have to learn that, that you don’t have to take the unnecessary shots in this league that you don’t have to take. It’s okay to slide, it’s okay to step out of bounds. I think those are things he’ll learn as he plays. But really encouraged about the small glimpse we got of him.”

-On Richardson’s 2024 outlook: “Until you’re around somebody, no matter how brilliant people are in this league, the more you see and when you get to see them play, a light goes off, Okay, this is what we need to do to get this guy going. You anticipate and you project but until you are with them and live with them and watch them play daily, understanding what a player can and can’t do especially at the quarterback position and how you got to build around it, I think we got a pretty good handle on him and what he can do and what we need to do to build around him.”

-On rookie WR-Josh Downs having great early production: “We expected it. It didn’t take long for us. He had great tape and great history in college, produced in college and then the first rookie camp he was he was lights out. There was no doubt he was going to help us right away. I mean, I think the last player, and I’m not putting him on this pedestal, but I remember when Tyreke Hill when I was in Kansas City in his first mini camp, kind of, ‘Okay, we got some here.’  Same thing with Josh. I mean, he’s not Tyreke. Tyreke is in a whole new, whole different category of who he is as a player, but Josh Downs is really, really freaking good. And he’s continuing to grow. So everything he’s doing we expected. We had no question that that he was going to help us right from that from that moment.”

“The tape usually plays out. They change and they grow. But what you see on tape in college is usually who they are. They’ll get better. We knew he was highly competitive. You saw that on tape. We knew he had tremendous instincts. We saw that on tape. The more I’m around him and watch him the he’s got some T.Y. (Hilton) in him. And I don’t want to put (Downs) in that category yet, but T.Y. probably had the best instincts of any player I’ve been around in my career. I mean the kid just knew how to play the game. Josh has got some of that in him, he knows he’s got tremendous instincts and feel for the game.”

-On first-year offensive line coach Tony Sparano Jr.: “Tony’s got a really bright future. He was raised in this. His dad was a legendary O-line coach in our league. And Tony has worked with great coaches throughout his career t help him develop his craft. This is really the first time he’s had the whole O-line room to himself and he is he’s going to do nothing but continue to grow and get better. Here’s what good coaches do. Good coaches see the best in a player and get it out of them. It’s easy to look at deficiencies. It’s easy to look at what they can’t do. That’s easy to do. That’s to me what bad coaches do good coaches look for what this guy can do, and they make it better. And I’ve never once seen Tony flinch. ‘Hey, man, you have to play this rookie right tackle, you know (Blake) Freeland this week. Oh yeah. By the way, he’s going to play left tackle this week, and the next time is going to play right  You’re going to play you know he’s going to play right tackle.’ And he’s never once flinched with all the change. He’s got great feel for the room. He’s very demanding. And he has got a really, really bright future in this.”

“It’s a credit to, Tony and Chris Watt, who is his assistant and to the players. I mean, that they’re prideful. They’re prideful group. They probably didn’t play up to their potential last year. But like I said I thought at the end of the (2022) year that you started seeing them get better. They’re playing really solid football right now.”

-On Zaire Franklin, Kenny Moore: “It’s to credit to them. When we claimed Kenny back in 17. I mean, it didn’t take long to see that we thought he had some unique qualities. And then to really watch him grow. And then, last year we had some struggles. Kenny had some struggles. But my relationship with Kenny, Zaire too, but Kenny especially, you stick with people, especially when you know who they are. We all have bad moments and bad times. And it’s a credit to Kenny and his character of who he is the way he’s bounced back and play, which I think is at a Pro Bowl level right now. And I’m not so sure Zaire isn’t playing at the same level. Zaire comes in, he’s a seventh round pick, but I think was a four-time captain at Syracuse, four-year starter at Syracuse came in right away, a special team captain pretty quickly for us. That linebacker group has been a good one for us. Since about ’18, ’19, it’s been a position we’ve able to find guys form Bobby Okereke to Anthony Walker to E.J. Speed. Our scouts have done a tremendous job scouting that that group. And never once has Zaire, whatever role he’s been asked to play, he does it he does it with a tremendous amount of pride, effort and production. And whether it’s been as a special teams captain, or be the starting MIKE, he does it at a high level.

-On DeForest Buckner: “I don’t read much but I was reading something the other day and it said ‘stock down: Buckner.’ What freaking game were you watching? Ask New England if it’s stock down. Here’s what one of our defensive coaches asked me the other day. Compare him to when you first brought him, traded for him. I said, ‘No different.’ I said I think he’s getting better. He is a true professional and each and every day, how he prepares each and every day, how he takes care of his body, how he shows up for practice is a great example for everybody on this team. And then he goes out on Sunday, and he produces. and it doesn’t always show up in the stat sheet, but I promise you when you put on the tape, our opponents, they know, they’re noticing it. We’re very fortunate to have you know DeForest Buckner as a Colt.”

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