The Colts officially began their training camp yesterday as players and staff reported and prepared to get started. With those arrivals came the first media availability and our chance to learn some of what’s been going on this offseason and get an idea where everyone stands ahead of 2019.
With that in mind, here are some talking points from arrival day at the Indianapolis Colts 2019 training camp.
Ballard began by talking about how much he enjoys training camp and the level of excitement in terms of the team itself. He also shed some light on Reece Fountain’s Non-Football Injury listing, saying he had rolled an ankle and would be ready to go any time. That’s good news for a guy who really needs to have a big camp if he wants to make the roster.
Additionally, he talked about Spencer Ware starting camp on the Active/PUP list with a muscle injury that could hold him out about two weeks. That will put him at a disadvantage in a room that will be competing to prove they deserve snaps, but perhaps isn’t as damaging as missing time would be for Fountain. Beyond that, the team is largely healthy.
On guys coming back from injuries
“We’re going to limit some guys. They’re going to practice, but we’re going to work them back in. One of the things that the league has found, and we have found, that this first seven to 10 days is almost acclimation period. If you haven’t been practicing, getting back into this thing we’re going to be smart. We’re not going to just rush guys back in. So, Andrew (Luck), Deon Cain, (Clayton) Geathers, (Jack) Doyle, (Carroll) Phillips, Ross Travis – all those guys will work back into practice. They’re practicing, but you might as we start out tomorrow, Friday, they’re going to work slowly back in.”
On major position battles for this camp
“I think we have got good competition throughout. You have to continue the growth, but that competition between him (Antonio) Garcia, Joe Haeg – all those at sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th linemen, those 5 spots, which you know how critically important I think those are.
“On the D-line, there’s some depth and there’s going to be some competition between the young players with you know (Ben) Banogu getting some rush time and (Al-Quadin) Muhammad and Gerri Green. I think you can look throughout the roster and you can see where the competition is.”
“I think there’s going to be real competition at wideout.”
Ballard isn’t a guy who pulls punches or has ever really been cagey in saying what he means. Mentioning the backup offensive line and defensive lines as the biggest competition spots means that’s where he’ll be watching closely.
Additionally, when he mentions wide receiver competition, you shouldn’t be surprised, but it also means he is hoping to see guys emerge and take command of those roles.
On the progress of 2018 training camp star WR Deon Cain
“First, I’m very proud of the kid. To watch him work over the last year has been – I think Deon will tell you this. He’s probably grown and matured more in the last year. You know sometimes setbacks can be a positive and he turned it into one and man he worked his ass off. We’ll limit him here early, but the last two days have been pretty fun to watch.”
Ballard practically gushed about Deon Cain in this interview. It is clear that Cain’s work ethic and the way he responded to adversity has impressed Ballard, and it will be exciting to see if he comes back looking like the same guy that lit up camp last year.
On the kinds of leaders this team has
“When your best players are your best workers, your best teammates, it makes life a lot easier. You just look at teams around in any sport, the best teams that play and win and go off to do special things, that leader is usually pretty, their best player is usually pretty special. I think we are fortunate, and I don’t just think it’s those two (Andrew Luck and Darius Leonard). I think you can put Ryan Kelly in the mix. I think you can put Quenton Nelson in the mix. I think you could put (Anthony) Castonzo in the mix. I think you could put Denico Autry, Jabaal Sheard, Justin Houston. I mean I think we have got a lot of really good guys on this team that have the right type of stuff that succeeds.”
On the importance of turnovers and turning them into points
“I thought you saw it the second half of the season. Look, to me turnovers – but then capitalizing and getting points off turnovers. That’s a big deal and we are not where we need to be in that area.”
The impact of turnovers on a team is huge, and from day one Ballard is making it clear that it will be a focus for them. If they can consistently create turnovers and turn them into points, it’ll bode well for their season.
On Darius Leonard’s ability to create turnovers
“I mean – I’m telling you – he is like Charles Tillman was. I texted Tillman during the season and said, ‘We have the linebacker version of you playing.’ That play he made versus Oakland when he knocked the ball out – you could put Charles Tillman strip-tape on and it’s the same type of stuff.”
Many of us in discussions with fellow Colts fans drew this same comparison as Leonard just kept finding ways to part ball carriers from the ball. Not a bad guy to be compared with at all.
“The mindset for me is you still have to come out and prove it every day, show everyone what I can do – last year is over with and you have to come out there and continue to show what you can do.”
This mantra has been echoed all offseason by various players on the Colts. No one will be riding the momentum from last year and expecting to win, it has to be earned.
On whether this is his most anticipation for a season in his career
“Absolutely, this team is probably the most talented team I’ve been around. Most smart and most humble team I’ve been around. Guys just want to play and get better.”
On what comes to mind when thinking about Parris Campbell
“Speed. He’s very fast. Also another guy that’s willing to learn. Always in my head asking me questions, and I love that about him because I did it to Reggie.”
When T.Y. is comparing the rookie wide receiver to himself as a rookie, you’ve got a good thing going.
On how to approach the change in expectations from others for him
“I come in with the same mentally as I did last year. Just compete for a starting job and just be the best player I can be.”
It is pretty easy to root for a guy who just won defensive rookie of the year and was an All-Pro, but who is now talking about competing for a starting job. It is a foregone conclusion that Leonard will start, but the attitude of humility and desire to work hard coming from the top of the roster is great for this team.
On how he wants to improve as a player
“Getting off blocks a lot faster, I tend to stay on blocks much longer than I expected. That’s about it. Talking with Coach Flus (Matt Eberflus) we saw some things that I needed to work on. Kind of my plant, point and drive, making tackles inside out. Sometimes I overshoot a lot of tackles and I just use my athleticism and long arms. So now I just want to work by pinning their hip and making plays from there.”
Leonard isn’t content to stay still and DC Matt Eberflus isn’t content to let him.
Keep checking back for daily camp updates!