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INDIANAPOLIS – Throughout the 2018 offseason, nothing got Chris Ballard as excited in conversation as the name Rusty Jones.
An up-tick in voice inflection would come when Ballard began explaining how important of a hire Jones was in the Colts re-shaping their strength and conditioning program this offseason.
“Rusty Jones might have been as good of a free agent acquisition as we made all offseason and the difference he’s going to make with this football team,” Ballard said of the team’s new strength and condintiong coach.
“The things that he and his staff are going to do is really going to benefit us long term, not only from a player development standpoint but also from a health standpoint. He’s the best in the business, and I feel very fortunate for him to be here right now.”
Jones arrives in Indianapolis with 28 years of NFL experience, having worked with Ballard in Chicago and with Frank Reich in Buffalo.
Ballard was with the Bears for all of Jones’ 7 years in Chicago heading up the strength and conditioning program.
It’s why when the Colts overhauled their coaching staff this past season, the GM was very concerned with making a hire that fans might otherwise gloss over.
After just one season with the Colts, Ballard was not pleased one bit with the injuries that flared up during Training Camp.
He’s hoping the hire of Jones will squelch the nagging soft-tissue injuries that have caused the Colts to be one of the NFL’s most injured teams as of late.
In Buffalo, Reich was a player under Jones’ watchful eye. Jones, who coached for the Bills from 1985-2004, has a philosophy residing on a major nutritional component, distinct for each player, in hopes to maintain better health year-round. Things are designed very position/body specific in regard to those individual nutrition plans.
“Rusty was on things then that are just really popular now,” Reich says of first training under Jones back in 1985. “So, in every way, I think he’s been ahead of his time. Probably more than anything, Rusty’s really smart. Yeah, he’s on the cutting edge of all this stuff. But he’s just a really good teacher. He’s very passionate about it. He’s got great people skills, and the players just know this is a guy they can trust. You talk to Rusty for five minutes, and you just know that his only agenda is to help you. And he’s really passionate about what he knows and really smart.
“The essence of it is being on the cutting edge of sports science and being able to use that data to get players better. That involves several different metrics, and we feel like there’s a staff of people put together that have expertise in several of these things. And it’s just exciting to see. Players, I think, respond to, ‘How am I going to get better? And if you can show me something that I see I’m getting better,’ they’re all into it. And you can’t argue against the data that they’re seeing. Not just the data from speed and steps and yards, but all the heart rate stuff that you do, and then the third category of it really is the body composition stuff. It’s just eating right, training right, doing the whole deal. It all matters.”
Will Jones be the difference as the Colts try to end the lingering injury questions that have seemed to dominate storylines in recent years?