INDIANAPOLIS —Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich today talked to the local media via video conference call, giving an update on the team's virtual offseason workout program, his hopes for Philip Rivers playing in Indy beyond 2020, Nyheim Hines' offensive role and more.
You can check out that session in its entirety above, but here are some key takeaways:
» While Philip Rivers signed a one-year deal with the Colts back in March, Reich is optimistic the quarterback will remain in Indy beyond 2020: Rivers played the first 16 seasons of his illustrious career with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers before hitting the open market as a free agent this offseason. It didn't take long for Rivers and the Colts to start talking contract possibilities, and ultimately they settled on a one-year deal for the 38-year-old signal caller.
Since that deal was signed in March, however, Rivers, Reich and general manager Chris Ballard have all hinted at the possibility of Rivers sticking around beyond the 2020 season, as long as it ends up being the best scenario for both sides.
Reich doubled down on those hopes on Monday when asked how the Rivers contract negotiation process ended up playing out.
"It was a normal contract negotiation; there was push and pull on each side, and multi-year deal and this deal and trying to get numbers and everything to balance out right, and it finally just came down to what it was," Reich said. "But I think the spirit of it was, 'Hey, we're in this together,' and as long as Philip wants to play, he wants to be here.
"It's the NFL; we know he's gotta prove it, we've gotta prove it as a team to keep him wanting to play," Reich continued. "I can just tell you from the previous relationship, I really believe it's Philip's intent to play multiple years. I personally believe he is more than capable of multiple years. But as far as how the actual contract gets worked out, it's the NFL, so we keep things realistic there. But I'm very optimistic it'll be a multi-year thing."
Reich is also well aware of Rivers' plans to become a high school head football coach once his playing days are over; in fact, Rivers earlier this month was announced as the head coach in waiting at St. Michael Catholic High School in Fairhope, Ala., where he will eventually get the opportunity to coach his son, who is currently in the sixth grade.
Those plans for Rivers, Reich said, have been in the works "for a long time," and, "really just speaks to the kind of person he is."
"I just love it. He's football through and through, and that's one of the things you love about him, and he's family through and through," Reich said. "And his next step — and he has such a clear vision of that. … And we're certainly excited to have him for however long we get him before he takes that head job."
» The Colts will be mixing the rookies with the veterans into their virtual offseason program for the first time on Tuesday: The Colts' virtual offseason workout program, which began on April 20, has consisted of about four days a week of various team and positional meetings for half the session, and then fitness and training efforts for the other half.
The team's veterans went through this process for about three weeks before getting a few days off starting last week, which is when the Colts' staff started bringing the rookie class on board.
In all, the Colts rookies will have had eight days to get caught up to speed before tomorrow's session, in which the entire 90-man roster is invited to participate for the first time together.
"We have the rookies pretty close to caught up — they're not quite there — so they can hop right in," Reich said. "Looking forward to having all 90 people on that call and continuing to progress together as a team and find ways to bond, even in this (pandemic). And I know some guys are doing some stuff together where it's appropriate, with everything that's been instructed."
Reich said the Colts continue to work under the assumption that there will be a full regular season as planned.
"We don't know what's gonna happen; we're hopeful and optimistic that we'll have a full season together, so our mindset is just to continue this preparation with the hopes that we can start training camp on time, and that the season will start on time, and we'll adjust as needed and as told," he said.
» Reich anticipates running back Nyheim Hines having a "very productive" 2020 season: We all know the adage "there's only one ball to go around," and the Colts have tons of weapons available to highlight on any given week. That's especially true at the running back position, where not only does the team return starter Marlon Mack, the dangerous Nyheim Hines and key backup Jordan Wilkins, but it also used a second-round pick in this year's draft to take standout Wisconsin halfback Jonathan Taylor.
Ballard, Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni have already talked about anticipating a "1-2 punch" at the position with Mack and Taylor, but where does that leave a guy like Hines, who has the ability to play more of a role as a traditional back, but has been very effective as a pass-catching threat out of the backfield?
For his part, Reich isn't worried at all about Hines being involved in the Colts weekly offensive gameplans. He might not get 10 or 15 touches a game, but Reich sees Hines taking advantage of the opportunities he does get.
"One of the things that makes it easier is our players are very unselfish," Reich said. "And so, like, we know how it goes, that Nyheim could go a couple games with a relatively small amount of touches, and then all of a sudden he's got 10 catches in one game."
The Colts envision Hines being a key part of the offense in large part due to Rivers' past history of including the running back in the passing game, with guys like Darren Sproles, Danny Woodhead and, most recently, Austin Ekeler.
"Philip has an uncanny ability to get the ball to the backs, you know, on checkdowns, and using him like that," Reich said. "So Nyheim will be very much integrated into the gameplan, on all three downs. I wouldn't anticipate he's going to play as many snaps as Marlon and Jonathan, but there's still enough snaps for him to be very, very productive this year. Very productive."
» The Colts have figured out their plans for preseason playing time: Last year, the Colts' starters played a few series in their preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills, played a little bit more in their second preseason game against the Cleveland Browns, but then Reich decided to sit most of his starters in the third preseason game against the Chicago Bears, which is traditionally the "dress rehearsal" for the regular season before sitting out the entire preseason finale.
Considering the risk of injury, and the fact it gives some of the bubble players a few more critical opportunities to show what they can do, teams in general have been pulling their starters from preseason action much more frequently of late.
But with the unprecedented circumstances this year, which at this rate could possibly result in the Colts and teams across the league not being able to conduct on-field work with their players until training camp at the earliest, that could make those preseason reps a little bit more valuable for the starting units.
Reich said he recently met with Ballard, his coordinators and the team's medical and training staffs to put together a plan for this upcoming preseason.
"I had a plan in my mind for what I was thinking, but I wanted to make sure everybody felt good about it — so we kind of laid it out, Chris and I talked it through with the group," Reich said.
"I mean, it's no secret: if we have four preseason games, I'd like the starters to play in the first three games like we normally would do," Reich continued. "Same thing we would normally do — ramp it up a little bit each game leading up to that third game, and get them ready to go."