Since DeForest Buckner last played an NFL game in Super Bowl XLIV, his life has been a transitional whirlwind.
The All-Pro defensive tackle was acquired in March by the Indianapolis Colts from the San Francisco 49ers for a 2020 first-round draft choice. He then signed a four-year, $84-million contract extension. Because NFL team facilities have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, his bonding with new teammates has been restricted to virtual communication.
Buckner also became a father about one month ago. He and his wife have been staying with his in-laws in Fresno, Calif. They just purchased a home in Indianapolis and visited his new city this week.
It would be an understatement to suggest Buckner is antsy to start this new chapter with the Colts. At several times during a Wednesday Zoom video conference call with media, his eagerness couldn’t have been more evident.
As one of the league’s best three-technique playmakers on the defensive line, Buckner has been described as “the engine” that will drive the Colts defense. Much has been made of him becoming a cornerstone in defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’ scheme, but Buckner says he isn’t preparing for or approaching his new situation any differently than before.
He was asked if there’s added pressure to lead or live up to the responsibility entrusted in him.
“Not at all,” Buckner said with a head shake. “They watched my film. I’ve talked to (GM) Chris (Ballard) and all of them. I’m excited to be here. There’s no other added pressure I feel at all. I go into every season knowing that my job is up for grabs as well. I know what I do in the offseason to prepare for the season. There’s no need to stress about any of it, you know what I mean? I’ve just got to come in and continue to do what I do and what I’ve done my entire career in San Francisco and bring it over to the Colts.
“It’s the same game, the same position I’m playing. I just need to come out here and show everyone in Colts nation what I bring to the table. I’ve done it for four years in San Francisco. I just need to bring it over here. I just need to continue what I’m doing and get better as I’m doing it.”
If any Colts fans haven’t seen him yet, they should turn on that Super Bowl and watch Buckner’s 1.5 sacks in the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. What’s special about Buckner, aside from the fact that he comes highly regarded as a leader, is how he is equally effective as a run stopper and pass rusher.
He’s made 263 total tackles with 28.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and seven fumble recoveries in four seasons. Buckner is also durable — he’s missed only one start and is on the field for about 90 percent of the plays. If he had his way, Buckner conceded on the call, he would never miss a snap.
That’s what the Colts are getting in exchange for the 13th overall selection, a decision Ballard has said was “a no-brainer.”
His transition to a new team has also been aided by a familiar face in defensive tackle Sheldon Day, an Indianapolis native, who signed as a free agent with the Colts after playing the past three seasons with Buckner in San Francisco.
“We’ve been texting our heart rate monitor and our graphs to each other and everything, seeing how we’re doing,” Buckner said of Day. “We’ve been really challenging each other since day one since we’ve known each other. That’s what we’ve been doing.
“Yeah, the workouts and everything’s been going well so far, what they’ve sent us. I’m just ready to have everything get on the field.”
He admits this offseason has been “crazy.”
“We actually came back from Indy two days ago,” Buckner said. “We moved into our new home, started moving everything. Being out there definitely made things feel a lot more real, you know what I mean? It’s the first time I’ve been out there since I signed.
“It’s a crazy experience, but we’re very happy to make the transition. We’re very excited about everything. We went through the city. It’s a very beautiful city.”
(Phillip B. Wilson has covered the Indianapolis Colts for more than two decades and authored the 2013 book 100 Things Colts Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. He’s on Twitter @pwilson24, on Facebook at @allcoltswithphilb and @100thingscoltsfans, and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.)