INDIANAPOLIS – With his locker in between
Not often does a team’s leading rusher from just two years ago seem like an afterthought but even Ballard admits he’s felt like that over the past few months.
That hasn’t slowed the rehab process for Ballard and with the beginning of OTAs, the third-year running back is getting closer and closer to returning to the field on a full-time basis.
“Once you get out there running around, moving your feet, catching the ball and stuff like that, you get to feeling like a football player,” Ballard says.
“For a long time, I felt like I was just a rehab warrior---coming in, not really touching the field, running on the treadmill and stuff like that. So to actually put cleats on and go out there and start making cuts, it’s different now.”
It’s been an up-and-down, mental and physical, grind for Ballard.
This is by far the most significant injury that he has ever had to deal with since his football career began at the age of six.
Ballard says a sprained ankle for one game is the only time he’s donned street clothes on the sidelines in 17 years.
His recent “game days” have come in the form of constant rehab and catching footballs from the Colts training staff isn’t quite like flipping into the end zone for a game-winning score.
Veteran running back
The two chat every day with the eight-year vet in Bradshaw making sure Ballard realizes how he, and the entire Colts offense, views No. 33’s impact.
“(Ballard) gets down on himself sometimes but I tell him that rest is going to do nothing but help,” Bradshaw says. “He has a lot of time. You’ve got to take it day-by-day. It’s a slow process and you’ve just got to work with what you’ve got.”
As Ballard watched from the sideline for the final 15 weeks of the 2013 season, the man who had started his previous 13 contests let the thought of a future roster spot creep into his head.
When the 2014 season kicks off, it’s Ballard who has 400 more rushing yards with the Colts than any other returnee in the backfield.
He’s hoping to return to the corkscrew-flipping guy that led the Colts with 811 rushing yards back in his rookie season.
Compared to his 2012 draft selection (170th overall), Ballard was a steal in contributing to the NFL’s most productive rookie class in league history.
He was the starter heading into last season before the freak Week Two injury.
The media crowds around Ballard’s locker have started to grow again and he’s hoping it’s a congested corner come September around Luck, himself and Wayne.
“I probably could participate now but there’s really no reason to rush,” Ballard says.
“I just want to make sure I’m feeling good for training camp.”