INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard on Friday joined 1075 The Fan's "The Dan Dakich Show," where he discussed his players initiatives to address systemic racism, some of his top takeaways from training camp so far, what he expects out of Philip Rivers and more.
Here is that entire conversation, which can also watch above, starting around the 1:35:00 mark:
On practice time during training camp:
Ballard: "We went 110 plays on Monday — 110-play scrimmage — and then we turn around on Wednesday and went 80 snaps. So we're getting after it pretty good there. I think we went another 80 today, so we're getting after it. Frank (Reich) gets after it, now, in practice. It's fun. Especially when you need to evaluate."
On the need to get reps in during camp vs. lightening up a little during the regular season:
Ballard: "Look: I learned this from Andy, Coach Reid — I mean, you can only do so many meetings. You've gotta play the game. You've got to get reps. It's the only way you can get better, and the more reps you get at doing something as a unit and as an individual, the better you're gonna be. You've got to rep stuff. I mean, Andy was freakin' psychotic about it; like certain players had to get certain amount of reps to be ready for a game, and Frank's got the same mentality."
On what he's learned about his team thus far:
Ballard: "Well, I've learned a lot. Let's just talk about the men we've got in this locker room, which I'm just very proud of them, what they stand for, they've taken the challenge of … you know, I really challenged them, Frank and I did, in the offseason about holding each other accountable, holding us accountable, be willing to speak your mind, and not only from on the field performance-wise, but off the field. So that's been really cool to see, these young players — you know, the Quenton Nelsons, the Ryan Kellys, Darius (Leonard), Anthony Walker, Zaire (Franklin), even the guys that aren't full-time players but are big role players — understanding their role and still having a voice and still holding each other accountable. And then, in terms of football, look: I think we're a pretty talented football team. Watching our scrimmage (Monday), up front, you would've thought it was a live game. I mean, it was as physical a 110-play practice as I've ever been around, especially in the trenches. And I'll say it probably until I enter my grave one day, that that's where you win. You win up front in this league, and I think we're pretty good on both sides."
On why it's important to focus on the offensive and defensive lines, and how it can tell you how a game is going:
Ballard: "Defensively, when you can disrupt the line of scrimmage, it screws up everything. Screws up the run game; when that pocket collapses, especially it helps your edge rushers when you can get middle pressure. And then on the O-line, when you know as the game and as the season goes on they're gonna be a strong unit, it just gives you a chance to win each and every Sunday."
On what he hoped the team got out of not practicing Thursday to focus on social justice initiatives:
Ballard: "Look: I'm proud of our players. I was proud of them this summer; proud of the organization to take these steps. But our players started the conversations. I mean, there were some difficult conversations, and it didn't have anything to do about football. It had to be about life and what's going on in our country. I wish our leaders in our country would take the example of what some of these players are doing. I mean, they're wanting to solve problems, and we talk about this to our players all the time; 'OK, look: yeah, you're protesting, OK? So where do we go now? What action are we putting behind it?' The players have done that, and look, after the incident in Wisconsin this last weekend, you could feel that it was time to take a pause and the players wanted to take a pause and really work on … David Thornton, our player engagement director, is outstanding, and he had a bunch of plans, but our players, they wanted to put together a plan. I mean, they wanted a written plan of everything they were going to make an impact on. And, like, I got a little teary-eyed this morning listening to them present it to us, and just the thought, the empathy that went into it, the thought, the intelligence, I mean, it's just a great example for our country. I mean, the things they want to work on: the voter registration, and the education efforts, the community and police relationships — you know, Ryan Kelly is a big voice on our social impact committee, and Ryan's dad's a 30-year police officer, a vet of the police department, and to improve those relationships between the Black community and the police — Quenton Nelson is heading up the part on food, to make sure that kids that aren't going to school right now that they're able to get breakfast, lunch and dinner, Zaire (Franklin) on the education and working with the Indianapolis public schools. I mean, these are real tangible actions that they're taking. I'm proud of them. I'm damn proud of them. It was a work day; I mean, they worked their a-- off yesterday getting this stuff organized."
On how this plan was presented publicly today:
Ballard: "Today we talked in very broad terms as a team. You know, our team leaders got up and our social action committee got up and talked about it in front of the local media. But I think with our players, I think as we go forward, we will make more of it public, but this is about action. They want to really dig deep into our community and make a difference, and like we've talked about: look, we think we can win and change people along the way and help, and I think that's what our country needs to be doing right now. I get so freakin' frustrated because between our politicians and the media who knows what to freakin' believe? … We're solution(-based); find a solution. Don't tell me about the damn problem; find a solution for the problem. And you want your leadership to find solutions, and they're not finding a solution right now. All they're doing is talking crap on each other instead of finding solutions. I'm proud of our kids; I'm proud of our kids for not reacting in a negative way but positively, trying to create change."
On how the Indianapolis community as a whole is hurting:
Ballard: "We've got a great downtown. We've got a great downtown, and it is, it's sad to see what's going on right now. And we do — we have to change. And it's gonna take all of us; it's gonna take every single one of us to make a difference. And, look: that's the beautiful thing about our country, that we come together during difficult times to get problems solved."
On your impressions of rookie guard Danny Pinter:
Ballard: "So, I like Danny. I was excited when we got to draft him. You know, I kind of held my breath up until we finally got to our pick. Look: we think Danny has a bright future, and we've played him in a lot of different spots here. I mean, look: we're talking eight, nine padded practices is what he's had so far, but the early results are very encouraging. I mean, we've played him at guard, at center, we kicked him out as a blocking tight end. We're using him in a lot of looks. He's got a very bright future for the Colts."
On the signing of Philip Rivers and his expectations for the veteran quarterback:
Ballard: "It's been really cool being around him, 'cause competing against him in Kansas City, I always wondered why he is never talked about in the elite category. Because every time we played him he scared the crap outta us. And just to watch him compete on a daily basis, and then the type of teammate he is — I think that gets overlooked. I mean, look: this guy, he's a rare teammate. Like, he does not want to let his teammates down, and he sets the pace with his work ethnic, his play on the field. And, look: the expectations for Philip is to be Philip; be the best version of him that he can be and help us win games. The turnovers gotta come down; he knows that. I mean, shoot, he's not going out there wanting to throw turnovers. But, look: Philip doesn't care about the stats; when you're down in a game, he's trying to win. He's trying to do whatever it takes to win. Sometimes you gotta take some shots and some chances, and I think he did that. So far, so good. I mean, we haven't played a game yet, but so far, so good. We like what we see, he's been a great fit for the team, runs the offense, he knows the offense, I think he's earned the respect of the players around him in the locker room, and now that'll continue to grow as we get into the season."
On why it's important to withhold any real judgements on players until the games begin:
Ballard: "You've gotta play. You've got to play games. I mean, that's where you prove it. I mean, that's why we play them. That's why you prove it. And teams change; I mean, like I always say, your team's not the same Week 1 through 4 as it is Week 8 through 12 and through the end of the season. Teams evolve and change, and they either grow and get better, or as the season goes on they erode and they get worse. Like, to me, there's no in between."
On if any players have made the impression, 'He's what we thought,' or, 'He's better than what we thought:'
Ballard: "Well, it doesn't take long to see (Michael) Pittman and (Jonathan) Taylor's talent. They're both very, very talented young men; they're both very mature. Look: they're still rookies. Like, I always remind people that as great as Quenton Nelson and Darius (Leonard) were as rookies, I mean, they still had bumps in the road early in their careers and when they first started playing games. So there's still going to be some bumps along the way; these are young men that have never played in an NFL football game. But saying that, it's not hard to see their talent when you watch them practice."
On what he sees offensively out of the Colts heading into 2020:
Ballard: "Well, I mean, look: Philip's mind works very fast. And I think that's a benefit to what we're trying to do offensively, and I think we'll take our shots, and I think we've got guys that can stretch the field. T.Y. Hilton can get down the field, Parris Campbell can get down the field, Pittman can get down the field. So I think you will see a vertical game. But, look: Philip, because of his mind and how fast it works, the ability to get the ball out quick, to get it into some of these kids' hands that have good run-after-catch (ability), I think that'll be a big part of the offense. I think with what he lacks in scrambling ability and what we've had in the past, I think that our running backs and tight ends will help offset that. And, look: we're gonna run the ball, too. I mean, that's always going to be a staple of us. It was a staple in '18; I think it got overlooked a little bit, but, I mean, when you got to the end of the season, when we really got humming in '18 it was because we were running the football and working the short passing game and playaction throws to the explosive players. So I think you'll see a lot of the same stuff."
On a comment made by former NFL GM and current ESPN NFL Front Office Insider Mike Tannenbaum that running back Marlon Mack had a "sub par performance" last season:
Ballard: "Let me say this: watch the freakin' film. I mean, you can't tweet on things … that's why I don't listen to any of that crap. Now, somebody that watches games and watches the tape, alright, you've got a voice. But watch the tape. How can you say that? Marlon Mack was freakin' unbelievable. Did he not watch the Sunday night freakin' game against Kansas City? … Come on. Stupidity on Twitter, it's at an all-time high right now. … Marlon Mack has two 1,000-yard seasons and Marlon Mack's a hell of a player, and to say he had an off year? And then, he has a broken hand and misses some games and comes back and plays with a broken hand. Off season, my a--."