INDIANAPOLIS – Robert Mathis is saying what everyone else is thinking.
A 1-on-1 rep between DeForest Buckner and Quenton Nelson come Training Camp will be must-watch.
Bucker is quite eager to see No. 56 across of him.
“I’m excited, the guy is an All-Pro,” Bucker told ‘Voice of the Colts’ Matt Taylor when asked about facing Nelson in practice. “He’s probably the best in the game and I can’t wait to go up against him every single day. For me, I’m trying to get better every single day. To have the best in the league across from you every single day, that’s a plus for me. It’s a challenge every day that I’m willing to accept because that’s the type of competitor I am.
“Being able to go against Quenton is going to be exciting.”
You do not find many 1-on-1 matchups of All-Pros on one NFL practice field, but the Colts have that with their No. 6 overall pick in 2018 and a guy they traded No. 13 overall for in 2020.
While Nelson and Bucker are among the best players at their respective positions, their presence in how they go about working really resonates with Chris Ballard.
Think back to this quote from Ballard when the 2019 season ended in disappointing 7-9 fashion, having lost 7 of their last 9 games:
“I think you could hear a little chatter of 5-2, we’ve beaten a very good Kansas City team, a playoff team in Tennessee on the road, we beat Houston, who is a really good football team, so we’ve beaten three of the top teams in the AFC and if you don’t continue to grind and take care of the little things each and every week, it’ll bite you,” Ballard said. “I don’t want to be a momentum team, a momentum organization. You start over every week. You are 0-0 every week, even after the season. We are starting over and evaluating everything. I think we just got caught up in the momentum of being 5-2.”
“We need a little more friction. The team runs it. It does. They run it. Coaches, we’re going to give you direction, we’re going to give you where you need to go, but the locker room, we’re going to go as they go. And there’s got to be a little more friction within it and pure accountability, and they have to be willing to challenge each other. They do, to an extent. They practice hard, but there’s got to be a little bit more challenging aspect to each other, that when things aren’t going right, when things aren’t getting done the right way, they’ve got to be able to challenge each other to do it the right way.”
Well, Ballard hearing this from his second highest paid player has to be music to the ears.
“I feel like I can bring my leadership whether it’s on or off the field, just being able to lead by example or speaking up when I need to address certain things,” Buckner says. “It all starts in practice. I practice how I want to play in the game, whether it’ll piss somebody off I’m just trying to perfect my craft (laughs). Every day I approach the game where if I’m not getting better I’m getting worse.”
Adding a player of Buckner’s resume is noticeable, but it reverberates even more in the locker room when you consider the experiences he has had in the NFL.
From 2-14, to 6-10, to 4-12 and then a Super Bowl appearance at 13-3.
“Getting there last year as a team, the biggest thing was trust, being able to trust one another that everybody would do their job,” Buckner says of the difficult climb to winning the NFC. “That was the main thing. And also taking it day-by-day. Not letting the outside world get to us. Whether we had a bad game, or a good game, not getting too high, not getting too low, just staying even keel and just taking it one day at a time. Just grinding it out week-by-week, every week was a new week. It didn’t matter who you played, didn’t matter their record, everybody was the next victim I guess (laughs). You have to take advantage of your opportunities out there. Especially coming off a 4-12 season, everybody counted us out. We just wanted to prove everybody wrong and that’s what we did.”
The more Buckner talks, the more Ballard has to be loving him.