PhilB: How do you feel about your Colts today?
Chris: I feel pretty good, to be honest with you. Looking over the first six weeks of the season, that first game with Jacksonville to me was absolutely stunning. It was unbelievable. Then we came back, had some good wins at home, then beat the Bears at Chicago, which was a good thing. The Browns loss was pretty shocking, too. We just didn’t play up to our abilities there just about anywhere, in my opinion. We came back after that against Cincinnati. I feel real good. This weekend, we have Detroit, and I feel good about that. And then I’m going to go out on a limb. Baltimore, the following week at home, I think we’re going to take care of Baltimore. So I’m feeling pretty good about the team. I’m thinking 11-5 for the season.
PhilB: That’s genuine optimism, isn’t it?
Chris: Yeah, I’m an optimistic guy. Quite honestly, I think we’re going to take care of Baltimore at home. We can do that. We’ve got a short week with Tennessee on the road, I don’t feel real good about that, and I’m a little nervous about Green Bay the following week, but I think we’re going to go on a tear after that, about four wins in a row. I’m not feeling real good about Pittsburgh, but then I think we’re going to close out with a win against Jacksonville. So I’m feeling pretty good. I’m feeling pretty optimistic. If we can keep the injuries down, we’ve got some guys coming back — well, technically they’re listed as questionable at this point — but we’ve got some guys coming back. If we can keep guys healthy, I think we’re in for a good run.
PhilB: I like your optimism. That sells the team and gets clicks on stories, so I hope you’re right.
Chris: (Laughing.) You and me both. I’ve got a lot of bragging rights riding on this season because of preseason comments that I’ve made to friends, family, and associates. So yeah, there’s a lot riding on this, bragging rights specifically for me.
PhilB: So you stuck your neck out a bit, huh?
Chris: Oh, I do every year.
PhilB: Well, why not. Go at it full and then if it doesn’t happen, at least you believed and put your passion and heart into it.
Chris: I’ve got a flag pole in front of my house. There are two flags that fly there 24-7, properly lit at night. The American flag is on top and the Colts flag is underneath it, so I’m all-in and I’m not afraid to put it out there. People who know me know that I’m pretty rabid when it comes to our Colts, but that’s just how I am. I’m a passionate guy when it comes to our team. I kick the TV and stomp around when we don’t play well and I’m high-fiving myself and my wife and anybody else who may be within high-fiving distance when we win. I love our team and I’m in good, bad, or indifferent.
PhilB: That’s great. Any players you want to talk about?
Chris: Well, I tell you what, Mo Alie-Cox is one of the highest-rated tight ends in the league, if not the highest-rated. He’s questionable (with a knee injury), I haven’t seen any updates today, but he’s questionable for Sunday. I’m real high on this guy. Big tight end, covers a lot of ground, he can go up there and get the ball. I’m real high on this guy. Our tight end crew with him, Jack Doyle, and Trey Burton, I think is real tight. Some of the usual suspects, the O-line is as solid as a rock. (Left tackle) Anthony Castonzo was out a little bit. (Center) Ryan Kelly is a little bit banged up, but I think he’s probably going to be back this weekend. So I don’t have any concerns there. Our defensive line and our linebackers, you know we’ve got Darius Leonard coming back and I’m feeling good about that. Quite honestly, I’m going to go special teams. Rigoberto Sanchez is a great punter. (Kicker) Rodrigo Blankenship, I break out my black-rim glasses on game day in honor of him. And you know the one guy who doesn’t get a lot of press but is a critical part of special teams, Luke Rhodes, our long snapper, this guy is money. Even when covering kickoffs and doing those things, this guy is absolutely money. He is worth his weight in gold, in my opinion. We’ve got a lot of great players. We’ve got some young talent that I think is developing nicely. (GM) Chris Ballard and (head coach) Frank Reich are going to do well in the draft next year. They trade smart. They use offseason acquisitions in a way that a lot of teams don’t. So I’m pretty stoked, all the way around.
PhilB: I usually ask every fan another question. Give me your thoughts on quarterback Philip Rivers.
Chris: You know … (Laughs.)
PhilB: I’m not setting you up here. I’ve gotten both kinds of answers, so you understand why I’m asking.
Chris: Oh yeah, I’ve been asked that question by fellow fans and by people who aren’t fans of the Colts. Philip Rivers, he’s been around for a long time. He was a long-time Charger. He got beat up a lot over the years there and didn’t really have a lot around him in a lot of cases. So his track record may sometimes look a little sketchy, but he didn’t have a lot to work with a lot of seasons. His throwing motion is a little curious and it’s always kind of caught me off guard, but I’ve got faith in the guy, though. I’m a team guy. The words ‘general manager’ don’t appear after my name on my business card, so I have a lot of faith in Chris Ballard and our coaching staff to get good guys. With no preseason, really we just got off preseason a couple of weeks ago, so we didn’t have a lot of time to play live so to speak in preseason, so I think we’re still working out some kinks. I’ve got faith in Philip. How long he’s going to be around, I don’t know. Hopefully, he’ll continue to improve. He does get a little bit quick to pull the trigger sometimes when it ought to be thrown out of bounds or thrown out of the end zone, but he’s trying to make things happen. I can’t fault the guy. I’ve got faith in him, I’ve got faith in our coaching staff. We’ll see what happens. And I think he’s going to be a great mentor for our rookie Jacob Eason, who is sitting on the bench. I can only assume Eason is probably playing the Aaron Rodgers role, behind Brett Favre and learning the system and some day will step up and take us where we need to go. Philip was a good choice, seasoned veteran, and I think he’ll continue to learn our players and our players will learn him better, and things will improve weekly.
PhilB: I should ask you how shocked and excited you were that Chris Ballard parted with a first-round draft choice to land defensive tackle DeForest Buckner?
Chris: Well, that’s a great question because the first part of your question was how shocked was I, and I was extremely shocked. Then when I started doing a little bit of research on Buckner, again I defer back, Chris Ballard is the expert here. I’m not NFL Executive of the Year material. I was a little shocked, but DeForest Buckner is an absolute beast. That was a great, super, super deal. He is earning his weight in gold, in my opinion. He has lived up to expectations and exceeded them. I think that was a great move.
PhilB: Yeah, I’ve got to go back a long time. I don’t remember the last time they made that good of a trade. I’ve covered the team for more than 20 years. You could say Booger McFarland when they made the Super Bowl run because of the impact he had, but with all due respect, I think Buckner is a better player than Booger was.
Chris: I can’t disagree with that. Booger was definitely a great player, but I think Buckner is a lot more mobile. The guy is a mountain.
PhilB: He is. You watch him in practice and he stands out. He’s 6-7 and a pretty lean 300 pounds. He’s not a big blob like a lot of guys on the line.
Chris: That’s the absolute truth. You see this guy, the pictures on the Internet, and it’s like, ‘Dang, this guy isn’t built like a defensive tackle.’ As you said, he’s huge, 6-7 and 300 pounds. A frame that big, he can carry 300 pounds and make it look pretty good.
PhilB: Well, we’re heading down the stretch here. You’ve covered a record prediction and you sound optimistic. This is where we summarize whatever else you want to say. You sound like the kind of fan that owner Jim Irsay and the organization should be glad to have. You sound totally positive. I admire your optimism and, as I said, I hope you’re right.
Chris: I appreciate that. As I said, I’m an optimistic guy and I’m very passionate. If you talk to my wife, she’ll tell you that I get pretty crazy when things don’t go our way. You know, I stomp around and do all those things, but I get over it quick because I come back to earth and realize there’s 16 games in a season and one game, one loss, one bad play, or one turnover doesn’t make the season. So I’m an optimistic guy and I think we’ve got a bright future ahead of us, especially with some of these younger players that we’ve brought on the last couple of years, and some of these guys like Buckner. Justin Houston, he’s got a lot of experience under his belt. He’s not going to be around forever, but he’s a great addition that we got a couple of years ago. I just think that when next year’s draft roles around, as always, we’ve got to focus on the secondary, we’ve got to be looking at the wide receiver market maybe in the draft or free agency, but I’ve got faith in our coaching staff and our administration to get it done. I’m all on board. I haven’t been able to go to as many games this year as I usually do. My wife and I usually catch four or five a year at home. It looks like we’re only going to make one this year, and that’s the Tennessee game on Nov. 29th, which I predict we’re going to win. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. I’m not real sure we’re going to win the AFC South Division. Tennessee, based on what their schedule looks like, is probably going to take that. But I think we’re going to be a strong contender for a wild card. We’ll see what happens.
(If you’re a diehard Colts fan and want to share ColtsSpeak opinions, send an email to email@example.com.)