INDIANAPOLIS – Just minutes after Jim Irsay introduced Chris Ballard as his new general manager in late January, a surprising off-season need was about to surface.
Pat McAfee, one of the NFL's elite punters, was going to inform Irsay that he was retiring at the age of 29.
Add one more item to the immediate off-season plan for Ballard.
The retirement of McAfee was something Ballard could not have foreseen.
Ballard had never met McAfee before his hiring in Indianapolis, but still wanted to reach out to the greatest punter in franchise history.
"Pat was a great player for the Colts," Ballard said on Wednesday at the NFL Combine.
"People keep asking the question, 'Hey, are you disappointed?' Yeah, I was disappointed. But also on the other side of that I was happy for Pat because Pat found his life's work. When a player's career ends, when the cheering stops, when the comradery of the locker room ends, they have got to have something that they are passionate about in life. I am happy for Pat McAfee that he is able to find something that he is really passionate about."
The other major news coming out of Ballard's first month on the job was the release of 11-year veteran D'Qwell Jackson.
Even though Ballard had no prior connection to Jackson, a face-to-face meeting was wanted.
"Let me say this about D'Qwell first, outstanding Indianapolis Colt," Ballard said on Monday. "He has been a heck of a pro.
"We made that decision quickly because he was coming into the office and I wanted to be able to look him eye-to-eye. I didn't want to call him on the phone. I didn't want to meet him and then call him two months later. The right thing was to look D'Qwell Jackson in the eye and pay him the respect that he deserved and give him a chance to get another opportunity to play."
Upgrading the inside linebacker position was always thought to be a positional area to address coming into 2017.
Punter, while probably not at the same level of importance, is now also on the off-season need list.
"(McAfee) is a difficult guy to replace, but we are working on it," Ballard said at the Combine.
"We will work through it and we will find an adequate replacement moving forward. We have our special teams and our scouts and we are all working hard on finding that replacement."
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