INDIANAPOLIS – It’s never a dull moment covering the Indianapolis Colts.
The latest installment of that occurred on Monday morning when Chris Ballard announced that Frank Reich has tested positive for COVID-19.
Reich, who is fully vaccinated, is asymptomatic, but is expected to miss the first four days of practice, with the Colts opening up camp on Wednesday.
“I’m excited for training camp, however I’m disappointed I won’t be there with the team as we start,” Reich said in a team released statement. “I’m fortunate to be fully vaccinated and I’m asymptomatic. I’m feeling well and I’m looking forward to returning as soon as I’m medically cleared.”
The Colts found out about Reich’s positive test (which was confirmed with additional testing) late last week. With the Colts still away from reconvening for camp at that point, Reich’s positive test did not lead to any other additional positive tests.
Ballard did reveal that an additional staff member has tested positive for COVID-19, but that’s unrelated to Reich.
With Reich not allowed to be in-person at team meetings or practice, he is attending things virtually, the Colts will have special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone take on some additional practice responsibilities.
The Colts won’t name an ‘interim’ head coach with Reich’s absence. Ventrone will handle a few more things at practice and then coordinators Marcus Brady and Matt Eberflus will rotate days meeting the media following practice.
Ballard added that the Colts aren’t sure yet which variant caused Reich’s positive. If Reich strings together consecutive days of negative tests, he could return before Monday.
We’ll have more on the Colts and their COVID-19 issues below.
What else did Ballard have to say on Monday, at his annual pre-training camp presser at Grand Park?
- Let’s focus on some football chatter first. Ballard has quite a few position battles that he will be watching at camp, and one that is surprising to some. While Ballard is eager to watch who wins the defensive end starting jobs, left tackle until Eric Fisher returns and general depth in the trenches, he’s also keeping an eye on a position that returns their top 4 guys. That would be wide receiver, headlined by T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman, Parris Campbell and Zach Pascal.” I think there will be some interesting battles at wideout, more than I think people realize,” Ballard said. “We have some good young players. It’ll be good for everyone to see the young players we have there.” That’s good news for the likes of Dezmon Patmon and Mike Strachan. Ballard also said he expects some real competition at kicker between Rodrigo Blankenship and Eddy Pinerio. “Eddy Pinerio is real talented,” the GM added.
- Darius Leonard will not be participating at the start of training camp. Ballard said Leonard had ankle surgery in early June to clean up a nagging issue. “We will monitor him early just to take care of him,” Ballard said. “He’s a vet. He knows how to play. He’ll be ready. He’s in great shape right now.” This will be a great opportunity for E.J. Speed heading into his third season. Outside of quarterback, linebacker has the least amount of proven depth on the roster.
- Marlon Mack (Achilles), Parris Campbell (knee) and Kemoko Turay (ankle) are all good to go for the start of camp practice on Wednesday.
- Ballard said the Achilles rehab for Eric Fisher (on PUP) is on target with no setbacks. That’s the same for rookie Dayo Odeyingbo. Ballad isn’t ready to definitely say that either player will be off the PUP list for the start of the season. If on PUP, that player will miss at least 6 games.
- It was a lingering hip injury that sent second-year DT-Rob Windsor to injured reserve, which will end his 2021 season. Ballard said the hip issue had been bothering Windsor this offseason.
- From what Ballard has heard, he likes the feedback from the throwing session Carson Wentz had with his pass catchers this offseason, including one in Texas. “That’s been really cool to watch those guys in the bonding period,” Ballard said. “It’s been very positive.”
- Speaking of Wentz, Ballard was asked on Monday about his concern over the quarterback situation, if his starting QB was unvaccinated. Ballard responded like this: “That’s a good question…Would it be any different if he were vaccinated would be my shot back (Reporter: “It’s shorter (to return) if you are vaccinated.”). It might be a little shorter, but we are still going to follow the protocols and do the right thing. Does that really make that big of a difference? I don’t know. I know this. Our guys that aren’t vaccinated, they will be safe. They will social distance. They will wear masks. There’s consequences if they don’t. Our guys are good. Last year we were all getting used to it. But once we got into it, people followed the protocols because they knew the consequences at stake.”
- The contract talks between the Colts and Darius Leonard/Braden Smith are ongoing. Ballard was asked on Monday his thoughts about paying a non-premium position such significant money. “You’re never going to regret paying a great player (laughs),” Ballard said. “I don’t give a crap what position the guy plays.”
- Getting back to the COVID-19/Colts focus for a second, Ballard said he’s seen an uptick from his players getting vaccinated as of late. The Colts have more than 60 percent of their players with at least one shot, according to Ballard. Currently, the NFL has more than 83 percent of players with at least one shot. Asked why his team has some of the lower vaccination numbers compared to the rest of the league, Ballard didn’t have an answer. Ballard said the Colts have leaders who are vaccinated, and leaders who are not vaccinated. Earlier this summer, the Colts had an hour-long meeting with players and staff members, where both sides of the vaccinated line got chances to speak why they’ve made such a decision. “It was good. It was respectful.” Ballard said he’s seen some players decide to get vaccinated after such talks. Based off Ballard’s numbers on the Colts, about 30 players on the current 90-man roster remain unvaccinated.
- While Ballard has some concern in how non-vaccinated players will view Reich’s positive test, having been vaccinated, he thinks this proves the point of why the GM wants people to get vaccinated. “I don’t want this to turn into a negative of people running away from getting vaccinated because it’s still critical,” Ballard said. “I think with Frank testing positive and getting COVID and having no symptoms, it shows it works. That’s one of the positives (of getting vaccinated).”
- Ballard was pretty adamant that a player being vaccinated or not won’t impact roster cuts. “We want to win…whoever wins the job on the field, that is who will win the job on the team,” Ballard said. “Just because he is vaccinated he wins the job? What message are you sending to your locker room? And then are you giving yourself the best chance to win on Sunday’s.” Ballard did say that such a dilemma is slightly different for street free agents, calling it ‘case-by-case’ with a 5-day protocol in place for a player to be signed and joining the team.
- Tuesday is report day for all players with Wednesday being the first day of practice.