Xavier Rhodes Candid About How He Needs To Play For Colts
INDIANAPOLIS — Xavier Rhodes was the first to admit he needs to “play better” with the Indianapolis Colts.
That said, the three-time Pro Bowl cornerback was surprised when the Minnesota Vikings released him and shed the last three years of his $70 million contract.
Rhodes, 29, cited injuries for why his play dropped off the past two seasons. He had a series of issues, be it a hamstring, ankle or back.
“There was more to it, but it was mostly injuries,” Rhodes said in a video conference call earlier this week. “(But) that being that, it’s football. I mean you are out there playing, you can’t make any excuses for yourself. When you are on that field you just have to play to the best of your ability. Last year wasn’t my best season, so I accepted that. Now that the Vikings moved on from that, I am playing for the Colts.”
Although the Vikings offered to bring him back for less money, Rhodes wanted a “fresh start” in choosing the Colts. He opted for familiarity with Colts cornerbacks coach Jonathan Gannon and safeties coach Alan Williams, with whom he worked in Minnesota. Rhodes agreed to a one-year deal worth about $4 million, far less than the $11 million per year he was set to earn with the Vikings.
“It was an eye-opener to the point where like you don’t have a job for a couple of days, a couple of weeks so it’s like, ‘Dang, I never thought I would be to this point,’” Rhodes said. “But again, you have to realize where you are at. This is the NFL, it’s a business. So right now I just accepted the fact and I am ready to move on and play for Indy.”
The Colts needed help in the secondary after releasing oft-injured cornerback Pierre Desir, their best cover guy. Desir was also a cap casualty. The Colts shed the last two years of his contract to save salary cap space.
“When you’re with a team and achieved so much with one team, you just think that’s going to be forever,” Rhodes said. “But then it’s a reality check and you realize it’s time to get on it. This is a business, at the end of the day. No one is safe, no matter who you are or what player you are. As you can see, there are many other players we can use as examples. … (But) it’s just a reality check to the point where no one is irreplaceable in this league. You always have to be on your best behavior. You always have to prove yourself each and every week, each and every year. Every year is a new year. So no matter what you did last year or the year before, it’s all about what you’re doing this year and the previous years coming.”
Rhodes’ physical style, especially in run support, attracted attention in the free-agent market. Although he struggled in coverage for much of the past two years, he was still named to the Pro Bowl in 2019 despite not having an interception for the first time in his seven-year career.
Question is, can he return to his Pro Bowl form of 2017, his best season that earned him a big pay day, when he’s in coverage?
“I don’t feel like I need to prove myself to anyone but myself,” he said.
When asked about the Vikings wanting to bring him back, Rhodes quickly deflected by saying, “that doesn’t really matter.”
What does matter is rather simple. If he wants to get paid well again, Rhodes has to prove he’s deserving.
“Play better,” he said.