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INDIANAPOLISOne of the toughest weekends for any NFL head coach and general manager is now complete.

Chris Ballard and Frank Reich had their toughest set of roster cuts to date this past weekend.

In trimming the roster down to 53 and establishing a practice squad, the two met the media on Sunday to discuss their decisions.

What did Ballard and Reich have to say on Sunday afternoon:

On choosing Rodrigo Blankenship over Chase McLaughlin at the kicker position:

Ballard: “It was close. You’re splitting hairs between two pretty good players. The first four or five days before (the media) even got out there, Rod didn’t even miss. Then he kind of went through a little rough patch. Then on the second scrimmage, I thought he looked really fluid and comfortable. At the end of the day it was a tough choice, and we just decided to with Rod. We just think that he’s got something to him. We like Chase. Chase is going to kick in the league, but at the end of the day we were splitting hairs between the two guys. We had done a lot of work in the pre-draft process with Rod. We thought we saw what we needed to see here and ended up making a choice on Rod.”

Reich: “I would just echo the same thing. They are all tough decisions. That might’ve been the toughest one and toughest conversation given like what you said, he was the incumbent. He performed well last year. As hard as those discussions were, looking at numbers and feeling the overall thing – with the handful of us that were in the discussion on this trying to sort it through, that was just the general sentiment. I think it was very difficult, but at the end of the day we have to project who is going to be the best kicker for us this year, who is going to produce the best? I agree with Chris, that we felt going in that both these guys were going to end up in the league. We felt like they both were going to be good kickers for a lot of years. So it was a tough choice, but we are excited to have Rod as our kicker.”

On rookie WR-Dezmon Patmon making the team:

Reich: “The other thing we’ve seen is a toughness to him. With the intensity of our camp and the number of reps – we had a few guys down, and this guy never missed anything. He was going all day. Ideally you want to bring a young receiver in and play him only in one position, but he had to move around a little bit. He showed an aptitude to pick things up, but I think probably what impressed us most of all was the consistency of what he did in camp. He flashed early and it was like, ‘OK, that’s normal. You have a big, strong guy who is fast and a good kid.’ He flashed, but then he kept flashing. There was a consistency to his play, that is why he’s on the roster. Secondly, it’s no secret in this league that you have to be able to beat press coverage. So we really place a high premium on guys who show in training camp that they have an ability to have aggressive releases and be able to beat press-man coverage. He consistently showed that. The mental side of the game, he’s done a good job with and I think he’ll continue to develop there. We’re excited to have him.”

On Jacob Eason making the 53-man roster as QB No. 3:

Ballard: “Well, that’s where he’s at right now. Chad had a good camp too. Chad is back on the practice squad. We feel good about where we’re at with the position. We’ll do some things each week to make sure we have a quarterback protected just in case things get scary on us on the weekend. Jacob has done a good job. Everything we’ve asked him to do, he’s done. He’s very talented. I think you all saw it in the scrimmage, some of the throws he made. He is very talented, but he has to grow. He is a young player and he has to learn. He has to grow and he has to earn his way. At this point, he’s doing it.”

On Kemoko Turay staying on the physically unable to perform list:

Ballard: “The surgery he had was a major surgery. COVID did not help this. (Kemoko) Turay has done everything we’ve asked. At the end of the day, he’s not ready and we’re not going to put a guy out there that’s not ready. We’re going to shoot for six weeks from now to try to get him back. He’s still having some pain in that ankle. He’s rehabbing his butt off and working his butt off. The trainers are doing a really good job with him, but he’s just not there yet. We’re not going to put him out there when he’s not ready to go…He had (surgery in mid-October. That was a bad ankle break so it was a tough deal to overcome. Then you get where it was really hard to rehab in the month of March and April. The kid did everything he was supposed to do, but it was hard for anybody to really connect and get it done. No excuse at the end of the day, but the kid did everything he was supposed to do. He’s just not ready yet. I think he’ll get there, I do. I think he’ll get there and I think in six weeks we’ll be having another discussion of when to get him back, but to activate him right now – he hadn’t practiced all camp. He’s not quite ready so I figured let’s just keep him on PUP (Physically Unable to Perform). Let’s give him some more rehab time, let him continue to get the ankle where him and the doctors are good to go, then we’ll move forward.”

On new tight end Noah Togiai, who the Colts claimed off waivers (from the Eagles) on Sunday:

Ballard: “When (Trey) Burton went down with a calf injury, we just started studying these tight ends. With no preseason games it makes it even harder, but we reevaluated a lot of the draft picks. We went back and our scouts went back through college tape and identified Noah is a guy who we think can help us. Without preseason tape, you’re not 100 percent sure but we sure liked what we saw on college tape and in the workout. So we will get him in the fold and see how he does. I know this, we’re excited to get Noah.”

Reich: “Yeah, I think there is an advantage coming from the (Eagles) system. The system is obviously similar so that should make for a seamless transition. Like Chris said, I’m just excited. I had no idea about Noah (Togiai). It’s funny to think about the connections there, but no idea. That was Chris and the scouts finding this guy. So we will see what he does. I think mentally though, it should be made a lot easier by coming from a similar system.”

On if Trey Burton will be going on Injured Reserve?

Ballard: “We’re still working through it. I can’t say yay or nay yet. We’ll know more in the next couple days. We’re just kind of monitoring, seeing where he’s at and seeing what the best course of action is here, whether it’s going to be two or three weeks. We’re working through it.”

On the depth of the offensive line:

Ballard: “I feel good about it, I really do. Le’Raven Clark has had a really good training camp – probably his best since I’ve been here. Chris Strausser has done a tremendous job working with him. Danny Pinter, I think you know our feelings when we drafted Danny, but we thought Danny had a chance to really do some cool things here for us. He’s accelerated and we’re planning on getting Danny in a bunch of different positions. Procedurally today, we had to move (Chaz) Green off the roster, but Green will come back on the roster. I’ll just go ahead and fill you in. We’re going to go ahead and put (Sheldon) Day on IR (Injured Reserve) and then we’ll move Green back up. So we will be back at eight. The practice squad is different this year. You can move guys up and down. There’s a limit of what you can do, but in my mind there is no different – we’ve probably always had this mentality but even more so this year, these guys are getting ready to play because you just don’t know. We feel really good about what we have on the practice squad also. I think you will see the number increase some weeks and be over the eight count as we go along. But just right now, we felt good about that. We feel good about the guys we have on the practice squad.”

On the major defensive rebuild by Ballard, since taking over in 2017:

Ballard: “I’ll never forget when we first got here saying we knew that there was going to be a ton of work that needed to be done on the defensive side. I’m proud of the work our staff has put in, our coaching staff in developing these young players. We’re not perfect, but we feel like we have a good set of – at every level. That’s what you want. You want disruptive players and good players at every level and we think we’ve done that and now we have started to build some depth. I’m always going to say it always starts up front. With the addition of (DeForest) Buckner, but not only – the 3-technique will make it go in this defense. It is kind of the engine that drives the train, but saying that, when you’ve got a Justin Houston, when you’ve got Denico Autry, when you’ve got a Grover Stewart, when you’ve got (Al-Quadin) Muhammad who is really coming on. I’m really proud of (Tyquan) Lewis and the way he’s performed, matured and really given us a lot of flexibility inside. I’m expecting big things from him. Then (Ben) Banogu, we’re excited about the front. They’ll all play and they’ll all rotate in. Then the linebacker group speaks for itself. I think you know my opinion on our linebackers. We kept seven because we have seven good players. Sometimes it doesn’t always work out that way, but we have seven really good football players and they all fill a specific role so we wanted to make sure we kept them. Then the changes we made in the backend, and they weren’t easy, but we think they are going to be for the good. Rock Ya-Sin has had a great camp – competitive. Everything we thought about him, he is just ascending and I think he is just going to continue to ascend because he is so dadgum mentally tough. He doesn’t say a word, he just works. He competes and he works. I think that’s contagious on the group. I mean you know my thoughts on Kenny Moore II, I think Kenny Moore II is one of the top nickels in the league and he is very valuable to this football team. But then the addition of Xavier Rhodes, the veterans (T.J.) Carrie, along with Isaiah Rodgers – we think we upgraded the corner position. Then to watch our safeties improve, Malik Hooker has had his best camp. He’s been an absolute pro here during training camp and it’s been fun to watch. Sometimes we forget that these are young kids. I know I’ve said this a few times but you want guys to walk in the building and be ready-made pros, but sometimes it just takes time. I mean they’re young kids when you draft them and they’ve got to mature. So we are expecting a good year out of Hooker. Then with Khari (Willis), who we think a lot of, has had a great camp. The additions that we’ve made in terms of Tavon Wilson giving us a veteran and then George Odum, who all he does is every time he gets in the game he makes something happen. Then we are excited to see Julian Blackmon when he’s ready. We think he’s pretty talented and we think he is really going to help the group.”

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