INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts were quite familiar with Trey Burton even before he joined the team in late April.
Obviously, Frank Reich knew Burton, with the two working together in Philadelphia from 2016-17. It was then, in which Reich was the Eagles offensive coordinator, that Burton broke out with 60 total receptions, after just 3 catches in his first two seasons.
But even Nick Sirianni and Jack Doyle feel like they know Burton a bit, despite having never been with him.
They remember those film installs that Reich used back in 2018, when he was explaining to the Colts what his offense would look like.
“Trey would pop up with some great routes and it was just impressive stuff,” Doyle recalls of his now fellow tight end. “I can remember one specifically, a sit route he ran that was always on the install. Like this perfect sit route, he sat it down perfectly, came back to the ball and made a big catch for them.
“I just think about how many times I saw Trey in 2018, when we first got here and Frank and I were watching tape together,” Sirianni says. “How many plays I saw that guy make, my goodness. Then when we signed him. Thinking back on that, man, it’s so exciting to get him.”
After that success Burton had with Reich and the Eagles, the former undrafted free agent cashed in with a 4-year $32 million deal, signing with Chicago.
Following a 2018 season in which Burton caught 54 balls for 569 yards and 6 touchdowns for the Bears, things begin to spiral downward.
Burton, 28, said he was misdiagnosed with an injury in the 2019 offseason, and rushed back to get ready for last year’s season opener.
Hearing Burton tell it, he was never close to fully healthy in ’19, playing just 8 games, and catching a miniscule 14 balls for 84 yards.
“When I say a struggle, that is a light term for it,” Burton said of last season. “It was rough. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to play coming up to almost every Sunday. Fortunately, I was able (to play) in a couple of them, but I wasn’t able to play at the level I would’ve liked to. I went on IR after I had suffered another little strain from a lot of things that were going on. We decided that it was time for me to get the surgery that I probably should’ve gotten to start out with, which was in December.”
That hip surgery has Burton reaching the end of his original six-month rehab.
For Burton, it was a ‘high surprise’ to get released by the Bears in mid-April, following several positive talks with the team’s brain trust throughout the early part of the 2019 offseason.
Once Burton hit the open market, the Colts jumped on the opportunity.
Re-connecting with Reich was a ‘no brainer’ for Burton.
“They love pass-catching tight ends,” Burton says. “Fortunately, that’s what I am. I enjoy playing that position. I’m also a guy that’s not afraid to put my hand in the dirt. I’m undersized (6-2, 238), I know that, everybody knows that, but blocking is more of a mentality than a size thing. Mentality and technique is really what matters. I think I’ve grown tremendously over the last four years at this position.
“If I can actually get healthy, which is something I haven’t been able to do because of some of the things I went through in the past, I am not an injury-prone type of guy, I’ve never really been injured before, so if I can get healthy, which I believe I will be able to, I am really excited for the season.”
It took about a month into free agency for Burton to learn his fate (he’s now on a 1-year deal, with the Bears paying a large chunk of his 2020 deal), and for the Colts to find their new No. 2 tight end.
If that health cooperates, expect Burton to be heavily involved in the Colts’ plans.
“I’m incredibly excited about Trey,” Reich says. “Trey is a big-time playmaking tight end. This guy is an incredible route runner, really smart and instinctive player. I think he fits a big need in our offense. You know that spot in our offense gets a lot of attention and I think he can step into that role that (Eric) Ebron was in. He’ll play it different than Ebron would play it. It’ll look different, we’ll scheme different things up for Trey than we did for Ebron, but that role gets highlighted schematically in certain ways.
“I expect Trey, assuming he’s going to stay heathy, will have a very productive year.”