It’s hard to find a more honest general manager in the NFL than Chris Ballard.
The Indianapolis Colts GM has always been a man that tells it like it is and will give you an honest look into what he’s thinking.
He has not had an easy time since taking over the franchise in 2017. Ballard has faced more challenges in his five years in Indy than most GM’s face in a tenure.
“Coaching (Josh McDaniels) deal, 1-5 (to start 2018), quarterback (Andrew Luck) retires,” Ballard recalled. “We just keep moving forward man. We just keep moving forward.”
And for two years running, Ballard has had to deal with COVID-19. The cloud that hovers over his team threatening their availability every Sunday.
It’s no secret the Colts are one of the least vaccinated teams in the NFL, something that Ballard and head coach Frank Reich have been trying to change by educating and giving the players all the information and encouragement they can. Players having to sit out games in the regular season because of testing positive or being high-risk close contacts could determine whether this team is playing into January.
However, Ballard and Reich have both been consistent in that they are not going to force anyone to get the vaccine.
“Look, I could beat my head against the wall,” Ballard explained. “I could go in there and raise all kinds of hell and go off and it’s just not how we roll man. I believe in our guys. I believe in what they stand for and I’ll stand by them.”
“You know the kind of guys we’re dealing with here,” he said about the men in the locker room. “These are good players who are good people, want to win, great in the community (and) do everything right. We put a lot on them. That’s part of who we are, is that we put a lot on the locker room to hold each other accountable, and they know the standard of what we have. I trust that they’ll do that.”
At the end of the day, these are grown men making decisions that they think are best for them and their families, and they should not be shamed for it. Their decisions need to be respected, and if players choose not to get the vaccine they will do everything they can to follow the proper protocols and stay safe.
“Those guys that have chosen to not be vaccinated, they’ve got to follow the protocols to a T,” Ballard said. “To a T because there are consequences with not being vaccinated. We talked about this last time. Do I think everybody should be vaccinated? Absolutely, I do. I am for the vaccine. Frank (Reich) is for the vaccine. We have a lot of guys on our team that are for the vaccine and I want to make sure that people understand that around our community, that this is a good thing.”
Ballard also commented on maybe the guy who is most important to his team’s success, and a guy who is currently unvaccinated himself, quarterback Carson Wentz.
Wentz’s tenure with the Colts has gotten off to a very rocky start. A foot injury on the second day of training camp sidelined him for most of the preseason, forcing him to miss valuable time creating chemistry with his new teammates. And just as he was coming back to practice and looking like his old self, Wentz was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list as a high-risk close contact.
“He’s worked his butt off, been a good teammate,” Ballard said on Wentz. “When the foot thing happened, I could see the frustration, but I also saw another look like, ‘I’m playing. Let’s get it out and let’s go to work.’ And that’s a good thing. That’s a good thing.”
All of the reviews on Wentz have been the same since he came to Indianapolis. He’s an incredibly hard worker and a great teammate who wants to win, fitting right into the culture of this Colts team. Wentz returned to practice on Friday, and as long as there are no setbacks regarding his foot, he should start Week One.
Ballard also gave an update on a few other members of the offense who are battling injuries.
It was reported earlier this week that wide receiver T.Y. Hilton was dealing with a neck issue, and Ballard broke the news that the Colts’ great had surgery to repair the issue.
“Yeah, we are going to put (Hilton) on IR,” Ballard confirmed. “He’ll just be on regular Injured Reserve. He’ll be back. The surgery went well. He’s got a ton of relief, he feels better. One thing I know about T.Y. Hilton, he’s a pretty quick healer and I think he will be back whenever he’s ready to go. But I think it’s always sooner than later with him.”
It seems like this was the best-case scenario for Hilton. While being placed on IR means he will miss at least the first three games of the season, it does not sound like this injury will keep him out much longer than that. The sooner he can get on the field, the better this offense will be.
The same goes for left tackle Eric Fisher. Fisher is recovering from a torn Achilles and was making great progress until he was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list as well. But Ballard seems confident Fisher will be back before too long.
“I won’t give you an exact timetable, but we really like the progress he’s made,” he said. “And when he gets back out here we’ll kind of monitor it and go from there.”
The vibe from Chris Ballard is always a positive one. No matter the storm he is facing, he genuinely believes that he and his team will overcome what is in their way.
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