Colts Contribute To Combine's 'Believe It Or Not'


INDIANAPOLIS — Welcome to the celebrated sanctum for subterfuge, where it’s never quite clear the intentions of NFL teams toward 337 players invited to the Scouting Combine to get poked, prodded and possibly work up a sweat.

Like most of his counterparts, Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard met with reporters on Tuesday to basically say nothing. OK, he did share one piece of news — offensive left tackle Anthony Castonzo has decided to return and both sides are working on a contract. But owner Jim Irsay had expressed optimism on Sunday about Castonzo’s comeback, so this didn’t qualify as a surprise.

In fact, not much at the combine should qualify as a surprise. That comes later. This is like 32 teams sitting down at a poker table and trying not to reveal their “tells.” Maybe they’re being brutally honest one minute. But perhaps not.

Simply put, because of the nature of this preview of players soon to be selected in April’s Draft, believe what you want about anything said. That includes Ballard, whose Colts might be crossed off the list of perspective teams interested in an offensive left tackle. But what if Castonzo signs a one-year deal? That means the Colts could in the market for a tackle, albeit a year out, which would raise eyebrows considering what are seemingly more pressing needs at quarterback, wide receiver, defensive line and cornerback.

The fact that Ballard as well as head coach Frank Reich offered more words of support this day for Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett could also be considered a head scratcher. Not that these braintrusts have lost their minds, but rather, are they really sending a message that they won’t be looking for a quarterback in the draft or free agency because they think Brissett will get better?

Surely not. I mean, please, this team needs a new QB to rise from 7-9 mediocrity. At the very least, bring someone in who can throw the ball down the field and isn’t afraid to take chances.

“Let me say this because this thing has taken a life of its own,” Ballard said of Brissett. “We did a two-year deal with Jacoby (Brissett) to find out kind of – we like Jacoby Brissett, love what he stands for and it was almost a tale of two seasons with him. We were 5-2 and he was playing good football, he had the injury and then we had injuries as a team and we kind of slid down. We did the short-term deal to see what we had.”

Someone might suggest what the Colts have is a glorified, overpaid backup who lacks the vision to spot tight end Jack Doyle on a crossing route after making a Houston Texans linebacker bite badly for what should have been a 30-yard gain. (Insert heavy sigh.)

“To say that we are going to create competition, we are going to create competition at any spot,” Ballard said. “I mean that is going to be a year-to-year thing. Even when Andrew (Luck) was our quarterback, we still studied the quarterback position. I just think it is important enough that it is a unique position. We know how hard they are to find and you’ve got to go in-depth each and every year for that spot.”

Nobody is suggesting the Colts, with three picks in the first 44 selections, will trade up to take LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who many expect to go No. 1 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals. Some mock drafts suggest Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oregon’s Justin Herbert, Washington’s Jacob Eason and Utah State’s Jordan Love could all go in the first round.

Ballard doesn’t trade up. He likes to trade down to stockpile picks.

Love was asked if he’s talked to the Colts. It’s nothing short of amusing how many of these players have been asked about with whom they have spoken. As if that’s an obvious tell unearthed by incredibly insightful inquiring minds trying to play reporter. Still hoping for a favorite answer, “Yeah, I’ve talked to all ‘em.”

If the Colts don’t add a young passer, perhaps they’ll go for an older one in free agency to be a bridge quarterback? Several scribes have mentioned Philip Rivers, connecting the dots because Rivers has Chargers history with Reich and Colts offensive coordinator Nick Siriani, who have installed basically the same playbook in Indy.

The Chargers have said they won’t re-sign Rivers, who is 38 and has played 16 seasons for one team. (Please ask yourself if Ballard would be willing to pay $20-25 million for one Rivers season?) He’s yet another veteran free agent quarterback hitting the market. That Tom Brady guy, he of six Super Bowl rings, could be out there, too.

Ballard was asked about the free-agency trend of "seasoned" quarterbacks.

“I think it was similar last year, too.” He said. “I think you are starting to see it be a little more fluid. Usually it ends up bouncing back to its original form. But look, it is the most coveted position in this league. You’ve got to have good play at quarterback for sustained success and that is just the nature of the league we are in. It has always been that way.”

So, too, has the NFL Scouting Combine, where too many words are always spoken without true meaning.