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INDIANAPOLIS – A week ago Friday, Chris Ballard had just missed his second day of work for the first time in 20 years.

 

An illness for Ballard kept him from attending Senior Bowl practices this past week.

 

But by Friday, Ballard was back healthy and ready for his annual offseason check up with Dan Dakich, on 1075 The Fan.

 

What were the highlights from Ballard joining Dakich in-studio?

 

  • On if the future quarterback of the Colts (Jacoby Brissett) is in the team’s building now: “I said this in my press conference, ‘I thought Andrew Luck was going to be our quarterback starting Week 1 this season,’ so I won’t make that predication. But I’ll make some comments about Jacoby. It’s almost like the tale of two seasons. Watching the first seven or eight games, Jacoby was playing good football. Making quick decisions. Making the throws that needed to be made. We were really good on third down. I think we were like 1st or 2nd in the league on third down. Then we just hit a stretch in the second half of the season where he didn’t play as well. Jacoby knows he’s got to play better. We’ve got to help him. I’ve got to help him. Frank has got to help him. And he’s got to help himself with better play.”
     
  • On when the Colts knew Andrew Luck wasn’t coming back: “The Monday before we played Chicago (Luck retired 5 days later), Andrew came in and we had a meeting with Mr. Irsay, Frank, Andrew and I. That’s the first time we knew. In terms of (Luck’s) attitude and his excitement for football, he was frustrated during Training Camp, but I had seen that frustration before, with the shoulder. At no point, did any of us think that retirement was going to exit out of his mouth.”
     
  • On Dakich believing the Colts weren’t telling the truth with Luck’s situation: “I get why, because it was so hard to pin down exactly what the injury was. Because Andrew is pointing and telling us this upper calf area is hurting. We are MRI-ing the calf. There’s a little edema in there. We are working on it. Finally, we sent him to get another opinion. The doctor said we need to be looking at the ankle. That’s when Mr. Irsay came out with that statement. We were actually getting it looked at, at that time. It ended up not being that actual point, but it ended up being in the front of the ankle. They said sometimes you have symptoms that will go up into your calf…There was no misleading. You’ve been around me long enough. If you ask me a question, I’m too stupid to freaking lie. I just give you an answer. There was no misleading. When you have a top-5 quarterback, who would mislead and try to keep him around? That’s not good for the team. That’s not good for anybody.”
     
  • On Dakich thinking the Colts knew Luck was going to retire in March: “Let’s go to even more extreme on my side of it. You are giving me no credit for having any brain for saying, ‘You know what, we didn’t address it. We got Jacoby, but who was after Jacoby?’ You had Chad Kelly, who we just signed late. We didn’t address it in free agency. We studied it in the draft, but we didn’t address it. That’s giving me no credit. That’s like saying, ‘Chris, you have no clue what you’re doing.’ I get that…Wouldn’t you want to get (another QB) in the building, so you can know what you have and he’s been in there all offseason.”
     
  • On Dakich’s theory being complete nonsense: “False. False.”
     
  • On Ballard’s reaction when Luck told him he was retiring: “Of course I tried to reason with him and Frank and Jim, all three of us did. ‘When you make this decision now, it’s hard to come back from.’ But we talked it through all week. At that point, you don’t have time (to feel sorry for yourself). You have to find ways to win games. Nobody gives a crap about our problems. Nobody cares. They are just glad you’ve got them. So we don’t have time to worry about it. We’ve got to keep going and we’ve got to roll. And we have to get moving forward. At that point, he’s retiring. What can you do? I feel bad for the kid. I feel bad for the story. Football lost a great representative of the game of football. The Colts lost a great freaking player, but we have to go, move forward and find a way to win games. That’s what we did. It didn’t hit me until after the season. I thought about it a little bit. ‘Like, hey man, this guy is a special player.’”
     
  • On if the 2019 season made Ballard appreciate Luck even more: “There’s two things I appreciate more about (Luck) now. One, his daily commitment to the process of getting better. When you have a great player, it spreads throughout the building. Jeff Van Gundy used to always say, ‘When your best player is your best worker, your best teammate, everybody else falls in line. Then, as a leader, and I think Jacoby is pretty good in this area, too. But as a leader, and Andrew was a lot different in the meeting room than he was on the field. But just in terms of how he would hold guys accountable internally and stay focused on the process, stay focused on getting better, do the little things right, those things I appreciate more now that he’s gone.”
     
  • On poor play in the 4th quarter from Brissett: “I know the importance of the quarterback position. I get that. But you have to be able to find different ways to win games. When that guy isn’t playing lights out, you have to find ways to win games. There’s a way to win every game. There is. More games are lost than won. Don’t muck the game up. Penalties, turnovers, miscommunication, bad technique—all those things muck the game up. You can’t muck the game up. We mucked some games up this year.”
     
  • On improving Brissett in the 4th quarter: “He’s got to play (more). We have to help him. The injuries at wideout, and I’ve got do a better job of making sure we have enough depth for when those guys have to play. It doesn’t matter (which skill position), just somebody that can make those game-changing plays in the big moments of games. That’s not just offensively. That’s defensively, too.”
     
  • On if Eric Ebron quit on the Colts: “Let me say this, Eric Ebron was really good last year (in 2018). He was excellent. He had as big a year as you would want out of a tight end. He had the ankle (injury) during Training Camp. We knew he had the ankle. He fought through it and got to a point where he said he can’t go anymore (Dakich asks Ballard several times if he buys that). (Ballard responds) Can’t go anymore. He can’t go anymore.”
     
  • On Anthony Castonzo and the impact of a possible retirement: “We know the importance. To me, left tackle is one of your core positions. And we think a lot of Anthony Castonzo. I will never beg a player to play. This game is hard enough. The commitment level it takes for these guys to get ready, they have to be 100 percent mentally in. If they’re not, then they need to go a different direction. I do think Anthony is playing at a high level still. I think he’s got 3 or 4 more years of high-level play at left tackle. Do we communicate? Yes, we do. Pretty regularly. But it’s not a begging situation where I’m begging him to play. Do we need him back? Yeah. We’d like to have him back. If he decides to retire, then we are going to have some work to do, whether it’s in free agency or the draft…A left tackle is hard to find. They don’t grow on trees. Now, you can take an average left tackle and help him, slide the protection, chip, line a tight end up, you can do some things to help him. When you have a left tackle that you don’t have to give help, that opens up (things). It allows you to help other people and get more people into the route and it helps your passing game. Good, starting left tackles, that you don’t have to help, are not easy to find. And it takes time. They have to play. Even Anthony would tell you. It wasn’t until about Year 5 or 6 that he felt comfortable technique wise. Our game is so much different than college football, the violence, the speed, the looks they are facing, the pass rushers and the speed and power. It takes time just from a technique standpoint. I’ve watched the development of Eric Fisher, who we took in Kansas City. People were killing this guy and now he’s one of the best left tackles in this league.”
     
  • On Chad Kelly: “He’s got some natural playmaking to him. Here’s my deal with Chad, because I heard the clamoring, too, from my kids. They love Chad (laughs). And they love Jacoby. But they love Chad. Chad had to earn trust. I’m not talking on the field. I’m talking off the field. He had screwed up a few times to where, ‘We are your last shot here, son. So we are going to have some guidelines here about what you have to do and you have to earn trust.’ The first time we cut him, he had this look of, ‘You are going to cut me?’ I said, ‘Damn right I’m cutting you and you are going to go to the practice squad and you are going to continue to work and continue to do the things that we are asking you to continue to do.’ Do I think he has a future in the league? Yes, I do. Does he continue to have to earn trust each and every day? Yes.”
     
  • On if big-name free agent quarterbacks in play for the Colts: “We look at everybody. Always. Every year. I think you have to go through the process every year, at every position, but especially quarterback. Not only in the draft, but also in free agency. For one, you know who’s playing in the league, how they are playing and how they are using them to be successful, number one if you play them and number two if you get the chance to acquire them. It’s the same thing in the college draft. You have to go through that process every year. Because you never know. You never know when that guy is going to end up on your roster.”  
     
  • On bringing in a quarterback to compete with Jacoby Brissett: “It just depends on how it falls. You never know what’s going to happen in free agency. You never know what’s going to happen in the draft. It’s an unknown every year. If we have a chance to get better, we’ll get better.”
     
  • On if the locker room got lost because of the Adam Vinatieri situation: “That was a tough deal to work through this year, because of who Adam is—take the past production away, work ethic, leadership, this guy is a leader in the locker room, the way he conducts himself each and every day, the way he works. So he’s hurt in camp, starts the season off slow, but then he has a good stretch. At one point he was the (AFC) Special Teams Player of the Week after he made a 50 and 55-yarder against Denver to win the game, so we felt like we had kind of gotten out of it. Then he hit another bad stretch again. Practice was unbelievable for Adam. We had 5 or 6 kickers in on Monday or Tuesday and I would tell Adam. He would get pissy but he understood. He’s a pro. Every time I would work them out, I would watch the practice tape of Adam. The ball lift was better. He was making kicks from 60 yards. So it was tough. Did we lose credibility? No. I don’t think anybody in the locker room was looking at Adam or anybody else because they saw the work and they saw the production in practice that he was doing.”
     
  • On if Ballard would have handled the Vinatieri situation differently: “No.”
     
  • On if he expects Vinatieri to return in 2020: “He’s rehabbing and we haven’t had a discussion.”
     
  • On what happened with Deon Cain leaving mid-season to join the Steelers: “Very talented. You have to do things the way we are asking you do them. The way we are asking you to work. The way we are asking you to prepare. And if you don’t do them that way, you are not going to be there. It got to a point, where Deon is a young player, and a very talented player, but we weren’t getting what we needed. So we decided to release him. He didn’t get picked up. He was on our practice squad. Then when Pittsburgh came to sign him, he ended up choosing to go to Pittsburgh.”
     
  • On the free agency dilemma of Devin Funchess: “I know it is. And he’s a great kid. That’s a frustrating one because he had a pretty good game that first week versus the Chargers and then right before T.Y. (Hilton) had the great run to tie the game up, we took a shot and (Funchess) landed on the shoulder wrong late in the 4th quarter. We think he has a lot of talent and that he could help us. We’ll see. It takes both sides. He’s a good kid. I know he enjoyed his experience (in Indy), but he was extremely frustrated all year because he wanted to play, he wanted to help and he knew he could contribute and help. We’ll see how it works out.”
     
  • On what area Ballard sees that needs improvement: “I’ll preach this to the day I’m out of this game, you win up front. You win on the O-line, D-line. You need a collection, especially on the O-line, you need 8, at all points. It’s going to have to be addressed, especially from a depth (standpoint) with Joe Haeg and Le’Raven Clark (as free agents). So we are going to have to address the depth there. And then on the defensive line, I don’t think you can ever have enough defensive linemen. And it takes time for those guys. It might be as hard as any other position to really develop. Rushers are hard to develop. Absolutely you can get a Dwight Freeney that is really, really special. But when you don’t get a special one that and lights it up right away, you have to be able to draft guys with traits and then develop him. That was the same with Kemoko Turay. That was a big loss for us when Kemoko want down. That was a big loss for us when he went down versus Kansas City. Getting him back, getting (Ben) Banogu, getting (Tyquan) Lewis…Lewis has to come on. It’s his time, now. He’s got to get healthy. He’s got to come on and we had a long talk about that. This is a big year. The interior (of the defensive line), we have to be able to get some type of pass rush. That helps your edge rushing when you some interior rush. When you can rush the passer up the middle, the quarterback only has one place to go and that’s stepping out and he’s got to run. That should help your edge.”
     
  • On the 2019 rookies: “We are happy with Rock (Ya-Sin). The one thing I really like about him, even when he had a rough game, he was in the office on Monday working. He works. He’s got the right mindset to be a really good corner in this league. Absolutely (he has the right talent). We really like Parris Campbell. Unfortunately, every time we got him right, something would happen—groin, broken hand, foot, etc. The Tennessee game, he has the over route for a touchdown, where he runs away from Logan Ryan in man coverage. Against, Pittsburgh he had over 100 yards of offense just on fly sweeps and screens. But his body has to get right (with lean mass) and he’s got to stay healthy for a 16-game season. He’s a great kid. He works. He wants to be great. He has all the right stuff. We just have to help him stay healthy to where he can help us. We do think Ben Banogu has a lot of talent. We saw flashes of it. We just need to see more and I think he will because he’s another good worker. We really like Khari Willis. He’s legit. And he’s made of all the right stuff. Tough. Plays through injury. He’s going to be a legitimate safety in this league. We really like Bobby Okereke. We think they are both starters. I think Okereke has some real special in him. (E.J.) Speed is an interesting case. He’s probably as talented as anybody we have at inside linebacker, but you are talking about a former wideout that we kicked to linebacker and he’s learning how to play.”
     
  • On what’s up with Quincy Wilson: “That’s a good question. We go through stretches with Quincy. He played really well versus Kansas City. Had a big game. Had a great game versus (Travis) Kelce. We asked him to match up against Kelce. Then when you start doing the 46-man (game day) roster the next couple of weeks, he hadn’t played on special teams for us a lot, so now when you are (healthy again in the secondary), that pushes guys down the line. If you are not in that top-3 corner spot, that 4th and 5th corner have to be able to play on (special) teams. That 4th or 5th safety has to be able to play on teams. Those guys were more valuable. Quincy lost his confidence a little bit. He knows he’s at a make or break point.”