INDIANAPOLIS –.Let’s do it.
Tuesday brought report day for the Colts training camp at Grand Park in Westfield, with Wednesday’s first practice.
Here are some takeaways from Chris Ballard’s annual pre-camp media session:
- The best news for Colts fans on Tuesday came with the announcement that, unlike last year, Shaquille Leonard will not start camp on the physically unable to perform list. Now, this doesn’t mean Leonard will be full go during Wednesday’s first practice, or anytime soon. Ballard was pretty clear on Tuesday Leonard will be ramped up to that full-go/full-contact point. Obviously, Leonard’s process to return will be thorough and nothing rushed after what happened last season. “There’s really no timeline on when he’ll be exactly cleared for contact but it’s good to get them back out there,” Ballard said on Tuesday. Remember, Leonard played just 74 defensive snaps last season, across 3 games. This came after a back surgery in June of 2022 and another one in November of last year. Leonard still has a long ways to go, but he’s definitely at a better point to start camp this year than he was this time last July.
- Yes, Jonathan Taylor did report to training camp on Tuesday (he would have faced a hefty fine had he not, given that he’s still under contract for this season). As normal, Chris Ballard would touch the question on if the Colts plan to get something done with Taylor before the start of the season. Ballard did offer, “Our history is really good (in re-signing draft picks the team likes). But saying that, we are coming off a 4-win season and we have a new coaching staff, so we’ll kind of let it play out as it does and make those decisions, when we need to make those decisions.” Ballard said Taylor and he were scheduled to have a “long conversation” on Tuesday, similar to ones they had back in May and June. “Like I’ve always told you, you pay good players, you pay players that are going to help you win, regards off the position,” Ballard said on Tuesday. Jim Irsay said a few weeks ago that Taylor was “fully healed” from a nagging ankle injury that led to surgery earlier this offseason. Taylor is due to make $4.3 million in this final year of his rookie contract. Something to keep in mind, Ballard said the Colts are not against doing contract extensions in-season. Although 4 of the 5 draft pick extensions they’ve done, have happened before a season starts (in this training camp/preseason window).
- How about tossing Michael Pittman Jr. in next? Once again, Chris Ballard took the opportunity on Tuesday to share his adoration for Pittman. “I love Pitt. I freakin’ do,” Ballard said. “He loves to compete….He wants it. He wants to win. He does all the little things competitively and does it right…He’s a big piece of what we do.” I might be wrong on this, but I’ll continue to stand by the premises that the Colts will have Pittman and Taylor on the team past this season. When those deals get done though remains a question.
- When asked about position battles he’s going to be watching in camp, Chirrs Ballard narrowed his focus to tight end and cornerback. Those are 2 of the position battles I had on my list, which you can find here. At cornerback, expect the Colts to ramp up things for JuJu Brents (wrist) and Darius Rush (hamstring) during the first few practices of camp. And the same for Drew Ogletree (knee) at tight end).
- Ballard was really pleased with the spring work Anthony Richardson received. But any commitment to early playing time for Richardson (whether as a starter or a sub package guy) will need some time. “Those are discussions that Mr. Irsay, Shane, the coaching staff, all of us will have,” Ballard said. You don’t want to put him out there and he’s not ready to handle everything that is required to play the position. I’ll lean heavily on our coaching staff, what they think, what they think he can handle, what he’s ready for. And then eventually, he’ll play….You want them to be ready to handle enough of the offense where you can give them enough tools to where they can perform and have success.” Ballard did admit the comments from Jim Irsay and Shane Steichen about the main way to get better is to play in actual games certainly holds true. That is not something we had heard from the GM before. Ballard did share a good amount of praise for Gardner Minshew, how he looked in the spring and his balance of competitiveness/being a good teammate.
- Yes, Tuesday was the first time we’ve heard from Chris Ballard since the year-long suspension/subsequent release of Isaiah Rodgers Sr. due to his violation of the league’s gambling policy. Ballard said he didn’t know about the Rodgers’ violation/suspension before the draft (when the team ended up drafting 3 cornerbacks). This is what Ballard had to say about Rodgers and Rashod Berry, who was also suspended/cut. “They made bad choices,” the GM said. “The league is pretty clear on what can and can’t be done. They broke the rules and are paying the price for it. I think they’ll learn the lesson from it…It’s pretty clear to me. Just don’t bet. Don’t bet on football. Don’t bet on games especially when you are in the building.”
- Speaking of cornerback, the Colts made a decision early this offseason to go with a heavy youth movement at that position in 2023. They are doing that. One player Ballard is very high on is 2022 undrafted free agent Dallis Flowers. “We really like Dallis Flowers, we think he’s going to take a whole another step,” Ballard said. Again, outside of Kenny Moore, the cornerback group is right up there with any in the league in terms of youth.
- Arguably the most head-scratching personnel moves by the Colts this offseason has been the lack of them along the offensive line. The Colts are rolling with the same starting offensive line group that ended last season (LT-Bernhard Raimann, LG-Quenton Nelson, C-Ryan Kelly, RG-Will Fries, RT-Braden Smith) with hardly any veteran depth behind those guys. Why? “The one thing that got overlooked was at the end of the year is, they didn’t play bad,” Ballard said of the O-line on Tuesday. “They played bad early, but the last half of the season they played pretty good football…I think as a unit we will get better play from all of them.” Specifically, Ballard liked how the run game blocked better late last year, compared to the pass protection. Ballard did add the Colts will continue to look into the pool of potential OL free agents but are standing pat for now. The GM singled out rookie Blake Freeland and Danny Pinter as depth guys he likes.
- Two players will definitely begin training camp on the physical unable to perform list: DL-Tyquan Lewis (knee) and TE-Will Mallory (foot). Ballard said it’s likely a couple of weeks for the return of Lewis, who tore his patellar last fall. Ballard called Mallory’s return “really close” and the rookie tight end had a nice start to the spring in catching the staff’s eye. Chris Ballard did follow up by saying some guys could still end up on that list and/or miss some early practice time after physicals are completed on Tuesday. Later on Tuesday, the Colts added Jonathan Taylor (ankle) to the physically unable to perform list. Taylor, and any player, can come off that list at any point. This comes after Jim Irsay had said Taylor was “healed up” a few weeks back. Taylor is scheduled to meet the media following Wednesday’s first practice.
- Lastly, a couple of players Chris Ballard pointed to on Tuesday were Josh Downs (“You’ll see…he’s pretty freaking good”) and Julian Blackmon (“I’d be surprised if Julian doesn’t have a really good year.”)
- Let’s switch over to some player news from Tuesday. The Colts did hold a ‘passing’ camp during the summer break in Miami. It was a 3-day camp with all 3 quarterbacks and 95 percent of the offensive skill players taking part, according to Michael Pittman Jr. (Jelani Woods did not make it due to a personal matter). Pittman said the quarterbacks led meetings for the skill guys on the trip, too.
- As Pittman did in the spring, he isn’t taking a very public stance in regards to any potential contract talks for him. Pittman reiterated that he’s focused on playing football this year, saying “everything else will fall into place.” Pittman will make nearly $3 million this season on the final year of his rookie contract, if an extension doesn’t get done. Expect Pittman (hip) to be a tad limited early on in camp as he gets back to full-go from missing time in the spring.
- Kenny Moore continues to be very honest in reflecting back on last season. Moore said on Tuesday he didn’t respond well to the adversity from last year. He believes all parties are on the same page though this season, and he’s adamant about wanting to be with the Colts long-term (“Hell yeah,” was Moore’s response to if he wants to be with the Colts long-term). Moore is in a contract year.
- On the injury front, Michael Pittman said his hip injury is healed from missing the spring work. Jelani Woods said his hamstring is good to go from also missing the spring. Woods added that he’s slimmed down about 7 to 9 pounds (at 255, from 262-264) from last season and feels more “attacking” out of his stance.
2023 Colts Training Camp Schedule
-7/26 (Wednesday): 10:00-11:00 AM practice
-7/28 (Friday): 10:00-11:15 AM practice, SOLD OUT
-7/29 (Saturday): 6:00-7:30 PM practice, SOLD OUT
-7/31 (Monday): 10:00-11:15 AM practice
-8/1 (Tuesday): 10:00-11:30 AM practice
-8/3 (Thursday): 9:00-10:45 AM practice
-8/5 (Saturday): 6:00-7:30 PM practice
-8/6 (Sunday): 2:00-3:45 PM practice
-8/8 (Tuesday): 9:00-10:30 AM practice
-8/10 (Thursday): 10:00-11:00 AM practice
-8/12 (Saturday): 1st preseason game at Buffalo (1:00)
-8/15 (Tuesday): 9:00-10:00 AM practice
-8/16 (Wednesday joint practices with Bears): 6:00-8:00 PM practice, SOLD OUT
-8/17 (Thursday joint practices with Bears): 6:00-8:00 PM practice, SOLD OUT
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