Unusual Offseason Required Unexpected Transition for Colts QB Philip Rivers

Phillip B. Wilson

INDIANAPOLIS — Philip Rivers concedes it’s been “weird.”

When the quarterback agreed to play his 17th NFL season with the Indianapolis Colts after 16 years with the Chargers, Rivers looked forward to meeting his new teammates and forming a necessary bond.

But the Coronavirus pandemic changed all that.

Rivers, who signed a one-year contract for $25 million, has had to rely on virtual Zoom video conference calls in making new Colts connections. It’s far from ideal, especially for a player who prides himself in being a good teammate, but the closure of NFL facilities during offseason training activities forced an adjustment for everyone.

“It is weird being in these virtual meetings,” Rivers said in a recent Zoom video conference call with media. “Obviously, you text guys here and there and you reach out with a phone call here and there, but it’s just not the same when you’re not around them. I think that interaction, the joking, the way you kind of communicate – it’s hard to fully get all of it and kind of have those bonds and have those interactions unless you’re in person.

“I’ve tried to do it a little bit in the meetings and in the huddle as we’re doing things – just go about it the way I would always, and you’re not really sure how it comes off when you’re not with the guys. You can’t always see their reaction just like I can’t see all of your faces right now.”

When Rivers recently moved his wife and nine children to Indianapolis, he organized throwing sessions with Pro Bowl tight end Jack Doyle and second-year wide receiver Parris Campbell. Unsupervised team workouts were the next step, although the NFLPA issued an advisory against such practices, citing safety concerns. It’s unknown whether those Colts workouts have continued because the team’s calls with media ended after OTAs concluded.

Rivers has reiterated what being a good teammate means to him, so it’s understandable that he needs whatever on-field time he can get. He knew roughly 85 percent of the Colts playbook when he signed — Colts head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni are former Chargers assistants who design plays with which Rivers is familiar.

But there’s no replacing that personal contact on the field.

“It is different, but it is refreshing in a sense,” Rivers said. “Truly, one of my favorite things is being a teammate. I love being a teammate. I love that locker room and having so many different guys and having – because of a football, we’ve all come together and been able to meet.

“Here I am in Year 17 and going to a whole new locker room and being brand new and not knowing really any of these guys other than competing against them. I look forward to training camp to get to actually be around these guys in person. I look forward to the few weeks to come when I’ll be around them a bit more. It was interesting seeing – no reason to keep it secret – Jack (Doyle) and Parris (Campbell) the last couple days. I’ve been in a meeting with them for eight weeks, but seeing them in person and saying, ‘Nice to meet you in person finally.’ It’s certainly a little weird, but it’s been great. I’ve heard nothing but positives about the locker room and certainly it’s all been true, if not even more just based on being around them now virtually the last handful of weeks.”

(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 phillipbwilson24@yahoo.com.)