INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich recently sat down for a one-on-one interview with Colts.com's Matt Taylor. What did Reich have to say about the first week of training camp, his first in-person impressions of Jonathan Taylor, how the team will address the safety position and more?
Here is that entire conversation, which you can also listen to above:
You're now one week into the whole team being together for training camp. What were your top takeaways from these first few days, even if you're limited to strength and conditioning and walkthroughs right now?
Reich: "Just the introductions to schemes and going from Zoom meetings to getting on the field. And although it's only walkthrough, at this level, the walkthroughs are critically important; we get a lot done, there's a lot of coaching done, there's a lot of adjusting done, the players do a great job with it. So it's a very productive time."
The Colts ended up having three players — Rolan Milligan, Skai Moore and Marvell Tell III — decide to opt out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. How difficult were those conversations with each of those guys?
Reich: "No doubt, those are personal decisions that I think we have to respect, and we do respect. So they're hard conversations — all three of those guys, we love those guys. Those guys are good football players, they're good men. Each made their own personal decision for different reasons and under different circumstances, and you have to respect that and then wish them the best, that they stay safe and healthy, and then we see how things go in the future."
Milligan, Moore and Tell III all were members of the 53-man roster at some point last season, so their decision to opt out potentially gives some of the younger guys more opportunities to compete for roster spots. How exciting is that for those guys?
Reich: "That's what training camp is all about, is a chance to earn a spot not only on the roster, but for an opportunity to play. So we really believe that competition will bring out the best in those battles, and it's an incredible opportunity for the younger players to make an impact."
At safety, particularly, you currently have just four players able to participate in on-field activities. Are you going to try to add more there by the time things pick up in practice?
Reich: "It's hard to go in with four. Chris is looking at that every day, and of course Julian is on (the non-football injury list), so hopefully we can bring him up before too long, but that's on a day-by-day, week-by-week basis. So we'll make sure by the time we need it, we've got all the guys on the roster we need to get through training camp practices."
You have a lot of returners across the board, and then you're entering Year 3 with all three of your coordinators. How big of an advantage is that for your team?
Reich: "You know what? Once the guys got here, you just realize as you're going through the installs again how much of an advantage it is, because we're that much deeper into it, the core players that have been here really know and embrace it and they, in essence, become coaches on the field as well. So it really does help."
What's been your first impression of the rookie class now that they've been in the building for a couple weeks?
Reich: "I think they're studying hard. I think they're doing a good job mentally — you know, picking up the schemes. Now it's not just Q&A on Zoom calls, now it's actually we need to see that you can line up at the right spot and do the right thing. And so far mentally they've looked really good."
One of those rookies, running back Jonathan Taylor, is certainly looking the part. What's been your first impression of Taylor, and how much work does he have to do to get caught up to speed by the start of the regular season?
Reich: "Yeah, I mean, Jonathan obviously worked really hard in the offseason. Physically he's in top-notch shape. That doesn't surprise me with the type of character he has. And then mentally this guy's really a smart player; he's worked very hard to pick up everything. Coach Tom Rathman's done a good job really catching him up to speed. Jonathan's putting in the extra time. I really think it's gonna help make it a dynamic backfield for us."
What is Nyheim Hines' potential this season? He's improved in each of his first two seasons, and then on top of that he's got a new quarterback, Philip Rivers, who loves throwing the ball to running backs.
Reich: "That is a two-fold thing. I mean, one is Nyheim just keeps getting better and better, more confident, more sophisticated in his route running. And then on top of that, Philip has a long and very well-documented career of knowing how to get the ball to the running backs for big gains, so he's thrown to the backs quite a bit. So I'm sure Nyheim's excited about that, and I know Philip's excited to have Nyheim."
How have some of the more big-name offseason additions, DeForest Buckner and Philip Rivers, been received by their new teammates?
Reich: "I think it's been an easy transition. Those guys are strong leaders, both DeForest and Philip — great teammates. So I think that's made it for a real easy transition. They come in here with a lot of credibility already, both on and off the field, so that makes for that transition much easier."
What's coming up team-wise for the next week or so of camp?
Reich: "Players will have a day off on Saturday, and then we'll get three more days of strength and conditioning. Then we have the ramp-up period where we get the two days of helmets, and then you put the shells on for a couple days. So you just want to (see) more and more speed, and more competition. So as we get the pads on and get going and are able to get on the field and go full-speed, you wanna see everybody competing out there, believing that that will lead to the execution that we're gonna need to win games on Sundays."