INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard on Friday joined Colts.com's Matt Taylor for a one-on-one interview as part of 1075 The Fan's "The Last Word." What did Ballard have to say about preparing for next week's NFL Draft from home, how the team will tackle the offseason workout program, the future of the quarterback position, and more?
Here's that conversation, which you can listen to in its entirety above:
How was it adjusting to the new "normal" with everyone working from home and figuring out ways to best communicate and get ready for the draft?
Ballard: "Well, I mean, the first couple days is a little (odd) — you know, the unknown and trying to figure out how we were going to operate, what we needed to do. But the staff did an incredible job figuring out answers to the problems, and then making sure we were all connected. And, really, at the end of the day, our process has been able to stay in tact. Still we've had great communication between each other, we've had great sessions, great meetings, we've got our eyes on the players that we're targeting throughout the draft, and we've had some very usual, edgy debates on who is better than who and who, and who would we take where. So, no, we feel good about where we're at and where we're going, and I give all the credit to all our staff for being able to accomplish all of this. You know, Anthony (Coughlan), Ed Dodds, Mike Bluem, Kevin Rogers — you know, all our scouts that have put in all this time; all our pro scouts, college scouts, they've all had to make some changes and figure out new ways to do things, and they've been incredible."
What effect did not having most of the pro days and the in-house visits this year have on your evaluation process?
Ballard: "Well, the in-house visits we can still do; we're just not sitting in the same room — but it feels like it virtually. I mean, look: does it miss not being able to work guys out? Yes, it does. But is it the end of the world? No, it's not. We have the tape, we have all-star games where most of these guys competed, the majority of them went to the Combine and worked out. So, you know, sometimes information overload can bog you down, and even though we don't have all the information, we have the tape, we know how they played, we have most of the medical, so we'll be able to make good decisions on draft day."
Any other hurdles your staff has faced as it's prepared for the draft?
Ballard: "Just dealing with the unexpected that can happen on draft day — you lose electricity, make sure you have a generator, if your internet goes down make sure you have a backup internet, if your phones go down make sure you have your cell phone service and you have enough cellphones in the house — which we do, because I have a wife and I have two children, two of my five, have them — so we'll be in good shape. We've dealt with, and we'll continue to practice here over the next few days, worst-case scenarios that can happen."
What does your draft-day headquarters look like from the basement of your home?
Ballard: "It looks good. I mean, I've got TVs set up — I've got three TVs set up — I've got my video set up, I've got the draft board set up. So all that's set up where I can work no different than I'm in the draft room."
Along the way in this process, what are some of the creative things you've seen from the prospects in this draft to make sure they're still getting seen and staying on the radar?
Ballard: "Well, that's been pretty cool, to be quite honest with you, to watch guys on their own making videos of them working out — and the agents have done a tremendous job helping us. I give the agent community a lot of credit for being creative and find a way to, one, safely make these videos where there's not a lot of people around and they're keeping the social distancing rules in place. But they've been very helpful. I mean, whether we're there or not we're gonna watch the tape — I can go to a live workout and I'm gonna watch it again. So to be able to get these workouts in and see has been great, and our video department — Stew Cramer has been a magician being able to convert these things and get them on the system for us, and get us up and running."
Diving into the draft, everybody's talking about the wide receiver depth. Do you see it being historic, like some are saying?
Ballard: "I mean, I guess I'll say this: time will prove if it's historic or not. Not right now. Because there's always somebody that comes out of the pack, you know, in the second day of the draft that either the team that took him expected (to do well) or no one else did. I think history proves for things to be historic, not in the moment. You don't know; you don't know. Do I think there's depth? Yes. But we don't know; we don't know how history's gonna play out. They still gotta play the game, and they gotta play the game at a high level against great players. So I think time will prove that out."
Not having a quarterback on your roster now beyond this upcoming season, does that put pressure on you or add extra emphasis to get a player at that position in this draft to get a guy for the long-term?
Ballard: "No. It doesn't. Because, one, even though Jacoby Brissett has only got one year left on his contract, and Philip Rivers, (for) that matter, has only got one year, because we signed him to a one-year deal — hopefully Philip plays more than one year, we'd like him to play two, we just did the contract as a one-year deal and we'll kind of let it play out — and then Jacoby Brissett's still here. I mean, I don't wanna underestimate … Jacoby Brissett's still a good player, and he's still a young player. So, no, we think we've got two good players on the roster, and then you've got Chad Kelly still around. So we'll let it play out. We won't force the issue. If we find a guy we like in the draft, yeah, we'll take him, but if we don't, then we'll just move forward and make decisions and find a guy when the time is right."
With the offseason workout program beginning Monday in a virtual setting, what are you and Frank Reich communicating to the team about getting better when you can't all physically be together?
Ballard: "David Thornton's the best — I really believe he's the best player engagement guy in the league. He doesn't get enough credit. David Thornton is an absolute lifesaver to both Frank and I, and he is an absolute asset to this organization. And he does a tremendous job staying in constant contact with our players — as do our coaches, as do our head coach, and then I'll talk to players also, and so do our scouts. The one thing I have: I have a lot of trust in our team. These guys are in this building for a reason; it's 'cause we trust them. We trust them to work. They understand what the expectations are; they understand the kind of shape and conditioning they need to be in when they hit the field — whether it's sometime in May when they get in here for OTAs or if it's not until training camp — they understand the kind of shape they have to be in to be ready to play. And I think the type of guys we have, all of them, they don't want to let each other down. They're going to be ready to go, not only for themselves, but also for their teammates."
The Colts signed free agent cornerback Xavier Rhodes, a former All-Pro just a couple seasons ago. How do you see his game fitting in with the Indy defense?
Ballard: "Look: Xavier's played at a really high level for a long time in this league. He's a veteran corner, knows how to play, he's still got a high talent level. Didn't have his best year last year — he admitted to that — but that happens. I mean, he's not the only guy that that's happened to in their careers, but it doesn't mean that he can't bounce back. We think he's still got a lot of skill left, we think he's gonna be a great addition to our secondary — adding a veteran presence that's played at a very high level — and we think he's going to be a really good piece to our defense."