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Chris Ballard press conference 7/29/20

NFL: Indianapolis Colts-Minicamp Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

This morning Chris Ballard addressed the media as training camp kicked off this week. Ballard addressed the media present via Zoom, first with a quick statement before he started taking questions:

“Thank ya’ll, appreciate ya’ll bein’ here. Sorry no training camp this year, it stinks. I love training camp, I love being away, I love Grand Park. But we want to be able to help keep you all informed and do your jobs. So I appreciate you all being here.”

The first question asked how different it would be to evaluate the players on the roster without preseason games.

“Yeah, it’ll be a little more difficult this year. Not having the live competition on gameday when the lights come on, you’re in front of fans and you’re playing against a different team, it’ll be a little different, but we’ll set up competitive situations in camp... to make sure we’re getting an accurate evaluation. The one thing is, everybody else is in the same boat. So all 32 teams are dealing with this. They’re extending the practice squad to 16... if a guy or two slips through hopefully we get them back on the practice squad... It’s going to be a challenge, if I sit here and say it wouldn’t be, I wouldn’t be being honest, but we’re gonna do everything we can to set up as many live situations as we can to evaluate the team... The scrimmages we had with Baltimore a couple years ago and Cleveland, those were invaluable, I ended up watching the practices more than I did the game tape. Those were invaluable, so we’ll try to create as competitive and as physical and as live of situations as we can.”

When asked about how the rookies have started to gel:

“They’re gonna be a little bit behind the eight-ball, in some cases. And we’ve got to do everything we can to get them ready to show. But saying that, they’ve had all offseason in terms of mentally being able to work.”

When asked about the leadership of the big named free agents who have been brought in during an offseason of uncertainty and how their presence has helped:

“Well, I think you’ll see more of it now because everything’s been done virtually. I think when you do it, your performance, your work ethic they (young players) see on a daily basis, that usually establishes credibility and leadership. I know Xaiver has relationships with guys on our team cause he’s been workin’ out with ‘em. Buckner lives out in California, and now, here in town, so he’s gettin’ established but, DeForest is gonna earn it by his every day, you know he’s a pro. He’s an absolute pro. And I think you can see that on the Zoom meetings cause he’s always really dialed in. But until you’re in person you don’t really feel it as much. Now you can feel Phillip. He’s a veteran, he’s a highly successful quarterback in this league, he’s played at a high level for a long time and he’s passionate about football. He’s passionate about his teammates and he’s passionate about winning.”

When I asked Ballard about what changes might be coming schematically with Phillip at QB he gave us this:

“Well I think what we do is what we do, but Frank is really good about fitting the player to his role and to his strengths, I mean he’s outstanding at it and I think defensively ‘Flus is good at it too. But sayin’ that Phillip’s been in this offense before, he was with Nick for a long time in San Diego and Frank was with him. So I think they’re always gonna accentuate on their strengths. As for exactly what they’re gonna do well, because we don’t have preseason games, I don’t have to tell ya right now and we’ll let Jacksonville figure that out week one.”

*Just a quick note about the question I asked. I didn’t expect to get a real in-depth answer, what GM is going to willingly give away the team’s game plan? I asked it for two reasons; #1: there weren’t many people asking questions, they seemed hesitant. #2. Every now and then Chris Ballard will go off on a tangent and reveal more information than he probably meant to. Basically, I took my shot.

When asked about how the virtual offseason process went and how he was able to adjust as he went:

“So the draft, that ended up workin’ out really good. We learned that we could do... you know change is not always easy, it’s just not. And a lot of it’s not easy because we freakin’ fight it, you know we don’t want to change we like the way we’ve done things forever but what we’ve figured out is virtually we can accomplish the same things we could accomplish all sitting in the draft room. And I think that was a benefit for us goin’ forward, probably for the entire league, where we all figured out that we’ve got these circumstances that we have to deal with so let’s find new ways to do business.

Like Zoom calls or Teamworks or whatever you use, I’d be surprised if teams aren’t using it more often, here goin’ forward. I mean I know we will. You know a lot of our college scouts are not here because of what’s going on with the tiers we can have and we’re limited with the amount of people, so we’ll have a bunch of Zoom calls during camp just to keep everybody up to speed and really have some think sessions...

But I think all that is beneficial for all of us. The time we were all able to spend with our families ‘cause coaching and scouting they’re a little different, their calendars are a little different. When we start training camp from a personnel standpoint, our calendar doesn’t end until after the draft and then you’ve got OTA’s in May and June. With coaching, they go from now ‘till the end of the season, then they get a little bit of a break and even during the offseason they get breaks, we don’t get breaks on the personnel end, so I told our staff we can still get done what we need to get done at home so if you wanna go home and eat dinner with your family, go home and eat dinner and if we got a meet we can meet on a Zoom call. There’s ways that we’re gonna do things smarter, here going forward. We can still be just as productive and work at a high level as we did before.”

Chris Ballard’s openness, apparent honesty and patience is something that makes him hard to dislike on a personal level. His success in building a solid roster makes him hard to dislike on a professional level.

The most interesting answer he gave was the final one when discussing how the Colts would use what they have learned during their time of virtual scouting and use it to work smarter going forward. It’s pretty exciting to think that Chris Ballard might have discovered a bunch of new ways to be better at his job than he was before.

I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but it is really nice to think that the start of football is just around the corner.