INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich today spoke to the media via video conference. What are his latest thoughts on the three Colts players deciding to opt-out in 2020, the plans in place should COVID-19 affect the coaching staff, rookies' first impressions and more?
You can catch that entire session above, but here are some top takeaways:
» Reich understands and respects the decisions of his players who have decided to opt-out for the 2020 season: On Tuesday, the Colts announced that linebacker Skai Moore had become their first player to decide to be placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list; on Wednesday, Reich said that cornerback Marvell Tell III and safety Rolan Milligan have also decided not to play in 2020.
Each player discussed their decisions with Reich, and while he's not at liberty to expand on their reasoning, he said he certainly understands any player's desire to sit out this season if they have the health and well-being of themselves and those close to them top of mind.
"I understand the dynamics of that," Reich said. "So we'll respect that, whatever decisions are made.
"We let our guys know we're here to talk to you," Reich continued. "We want to talk through these things with you, give you any information that you can (have) to make a decision."
With Moore, Tell III and Milligan all out of the picture moving forward, Reich said he's looking forward to seeing how the rest of the team responds to the added competition for spots at linebacker, cornerback and safety, respectively.
"We have three good football players who opted out, but understandably so," Reich continued. "So you respect those decisions, but this is a year where we're preparing like everyone on our team is going to play and they need to be ready to play. And so the way you get ready to play is compete — compete out at practice, compete against one another … so that's what we're looking forward to doing."
Reich said at this moment he's unsure if any other Colts players will decide to opt out by the 4 p.m. ET Thursday deadline.
» There is a pecking order set at every coaching spot, including Reich's, should anyone be personally affected by COVID-19: The Philadelphia Eagles announced earlier this week that head coach Doug Pederson had tested positive for COVID-19. He told the media on Tuesday that he feels great and hasn't really experienced any symptoms, which is the good news.
The challenge for Pederson and the Eagles from here is figuring out how to keep the team on the right track while he's quarantining at home. While Pederson says he'll still run the team in a virtual sense, he's appointed assistant head coach Duce Staley to take over his in-person duties at the team facility.
Reich was asked today if the Colts have prepared for a similar scenario; he didn't want to say exactly who his successor would be in a situation like Pederson's, but explained why.
He said about six weeks ago, he met with his entire coaching staff, and they discussed all the possible scenarios should a coach test positive for COVID-19. And after having lengthy meetings with his three coordinators — Nick Sirianni, Matt Eberflus and Bubba Ventrone — the Colts now have a comprehensive replacement plan in place for every single coaching spot, including Reich's.
But just Reich, Sirianni, Eberflus, Ventrone and general manager Chris Ballard know those specific plans for now.
"I don't want it to be a distraction to anybody," Reich said. "I don't want the person who's next man up to be thinking about that and to be distracted by that at all.
"I just decided that I'm to tell the coordinators what the plan was. I'd map it out with the coordinators, but that was it. I'm not going to share with anybody else. Let's just go to work."
» Reich is getting a good sense of where the rookies are in their development: The Colts on Wednesday began their third day of actual team workouts and walkthroughs for training camp; for the on-field portion of workouts, it's currently the same rules as Phase 1 of the offseason program, meaning no coaches (beyond strength and training staff) can actually be on the field.
So Reich has been depending on daily meetings with quarterback Philip Rivers to give him "blow-by-blow" accounts of how things are going so far. Asked what first impressions he's gotten from the team's rookie class, Reich said he can tell he has the makings of a very well-rounded group.
"It seems like a real smart group," Reich said.
He mentioned running back Jonathan Taylor and wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. as "two physically dominant-looking athletes."
While third-round pick Julian Blackmon remains on the Active/Non-Football Injury list as he continues working his way back from December knee surgery, Reich said, "Just hearing him, listening to him, just watching his body language, you just get a good feeling there."
"The rest of our draft picks have all (been) really engaged and (are) really learning," Reich continued. "So feel good about each one, but we know we've got to get the pads on, and look forward to getting them reps out in practice and seeing how they respond to making a few mistakes out there. And once they feel the speed and power of the game at this level, that'll be fun to interact with them, on that level."
The Colts can officially start practicing with full pads on Aug. 17.