INDIANAPOLIS —What are Chris Ballard's thoughts through eight games of his first season as the Indianapolis Colts' general manager?
Ballard on Monday joined 1070 The Fan's "Colts Roundtable Live" and discussed several topics as the Colts have hit the halfway point for the 2017 season, including how he'd evaluate the roster so far, his approach to Tuesday's trade deadline, the latest on quarterback Andrew Luck and his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery*and more:On his assessment of the season so far at the halfway point, with the Colts at 2-6:*
"Look, losing's never acceptable. And when things get really hard, this is when you've really got to circle the wagons and do things the right way. And, look, I feel the pain the same way our fans feel the pain, and it's disappointing for where we are right now. But we've got to do a better job of executing — I think everybody will tell you that. Players that have a chance to make plays in crucial moments, they have to make those plays. And all we can do is keep working, and this will benefit us — all these young players that are playing right now, this will benefit us in the future. And I get the frustration — I'm frustrated; the organization's frustrated. It's never acceptable to be 2-6. I mean, you are what your record is, and that's where we are right now. And all we can do is keep working. You know, the last thing we can do is point fingers and blame — no, we've got to keep working. And, look, I'm not going to sit here and say that I haven't made a few mistakes that I wish I could take back. I mean, I put this roster together, and looking back, maybe there's some things that I should've done differently. But we are what we are, and you've got to have some honest conversations about where you're at and where you're going, and what you're going to do."**
On how he would assess the young players so far this season:**
"This was a great week for a lot of our young players. And you've got to understand, in college football they're playing 11, 12 — some 13 games with a bowl game. But most of them that play now play 12 games, and they're hitting that hill, and trying to get over the hump. It was funny to watch (Nate) Hairston, our rookie corner who's played a lot in the nickel for us — really proud of the way he played this week and dialed in. He's been a little dinged up, but he's fought through it, he's continued to practice. Tarell Basham, who has really fought — especially in the last two or three weeks — to continue to get better, and for him to show up the way he did on Sunday was very satisfying. I think we're going to continue to see him grow in that way. You know, it's funny with young players, because you've got to be willing to live with their mistakes for them to get better. I mean, young players, they've got to play, they've got to fail, and then they've got to dig themselves out of it and become players. And you have to live through that. And I don't care who the young player is and how talented they are, whether they're the first pick of the draft or they're an undrafted free agent, they have to have the mental toughness to be able to do that. And that's been very satisfying to watch. You know, Marlon Mack — I think Marlon Mack has got a very bright future. He's an explosive player, and is able to create a lot of chunk plays when he's in the game, and we think he's really starting to come a long way; even though his production wasn't as good this week in terms of the run game, I thought he showed a lot of growth in the inside run game, being able to stick it up in there and get some tough, hard yards. And we've had some other young players that we're very pleased with. Our punter, (Rigoberto) Sanchez, has done a tremendous job for a rookie punter. I give a lot of credit to our special teams coach Tom McMahon; he dug him out in the draft, found him, and really pushed for us to sign him, and it's been an excellent signing. And then one of the guys we claimed, (Kenny) Moore (II), 42, at the cutdown day as a rookie, and he has played really well for us on special teams and had to play last week versus Jacksonville, kind of threw him in — he's been kind of a nickel corner/safety, playing a bunch of different roles, and him getting in the game and being able to hold up last week. So that's where we're at — it's not where we want to be, and it's not where we're going to be."On Tuesday's trade deadline, and if the Colts could make any moves:
"Look, every year there's rumors, and that's what it ends up being most of the time, is just pure rumors. You know, we're not going to say 'No' to about anything, and we'll listen, but that doesn't mean we'll make a move. We'll see here in the next couple of days, you know — tomorrow's the deadline at 4 p.m.; we'll see how it plays out for us. But somebody would really have to do something to pry one of our players away right now."On if there's a specific position he's targeting in the trade market:
"Well you can see how active we are on the roster. We're always trying to improve the team — at every position. That will be the case from here throughout, that we're always trying to improve. So there's never just one spot that we're always trying to look (at)."On Andrew Luck's status and recovery from offseason shoulder surgery, and the fact he'll miss his third straight week of practice:
"Well, when he had the shots — he's been having some soreness in his shoulder, and we gave him the shots two weeks ago, hoping that would settle it down. And it hasn't quite settled it down yet, so we wanted to start getting some answers. And he's gone to a couple other doctors just to get some opinions to see where we're at. Hopefully we'll have an update here later in the week, but look: Andrew's exhausted every avenue to try to get ready and get back and play, and that was our hope, also. So we'll have more answers, though, as we go forward later this week."On his assessment of quarterback Jacoby Brissett, and how quickly he's learned the offense:
"Yeah — very proud of Jacoby, and what he's done. I don't know if everybody understands how hard it is to come into a situation and get thrown in to be the starting quarterback. I mean, the time, when we made the trade — right after the 53-man cutdown — and brought him in, and then he's here for 10 days and then he's the starter. You know, most quarterbacks, they've got all of OTAs, you know, all your offseason work, minicamps, all of training camp to get ready, and he had 10 days. So this is almost like we're getting at the end of training camp for him. What he's been able to do has been pretty amazing. His poise, his toughness — I think he'll tell you there's some things he needs to work on — and then his ability to bounce back. I mean, he didn't have his best game against Jacksonville, and this week, to be able to bounce back and play, I thought he played really well. He had the one mistake on a great play by (Carlos) Dunlap; kid just made a great play. But other than that, he played really well."On what he wants to see from the team for the second half of the season:
"I want to see us compete. I want to see our team compete, and I thought they did that. I didn't think we played well against Jacksonville, but I thought we bounced back and we played really well versus Cincinnati. It didn't work out in a win, unfortunately, but our guys competed their tails off. Look, it's hard to win in this league. It's very difficult. And especially when things aren't going your way — this is when you find out who can fight through the hard times, who can continue to compete, be a pro, work every day in practice and do the little things right. I mean, Sunday comes down to one or two plays, but you can't just show up on Sunday and make those plays — you've got to work. All those reps you've gotten through OTAs, through training camp, through the week, that prepare you for Sunday, and we've got to continue to practice with intensity and with a purpose to get to Sunday and execute."On tight end Jack Doyle overcoming a couple rough weeks to put together a career day Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals:
"Jack had a tremendous game. Best game, I think, he's ever had in his career. And you can tell there's a trust level there between him and Jacoby, and (he) made some big-time contested catches. The one in the end zone, that was a big-time catch, and then he also made, I think it was a third-and-12 play in the middle of the field that was a big-time contested catch. Hey look, good players that have good mental toughness — all players are going to have moments in the season where they have a little lull and things don't go their way. They have to be able to battle and bounce back from that. You've got to be able to have the mental toughness to continue to work and grind and do the right things day to day, and it comes back around. If you're a good player, it comes back around. It came back for Jack. I told him after the game — very proud of Jack, him bouncing back."