INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers today spoke to local reporters via video conference. What did Rivers have to say about tight end Trey Burton's potential return off injured reserve, what he's learned most about his new team heading into Week 4, the challenge of facing the Chicago Bears' defense and more?
You can catch the entire session above, but here are some top takeaways:
» Rivers is excited to get tight end Trey Burton back in the fold: The Colts signed the veteran tight end Burton to a one-year free agent deal this offseason, reuniting him with head coach Frank Reich, who was his offensive coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016 and 2017.
Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni had previously used several cut-ups of Burton's route-running ability as "teach tape" to show the Colts' tight ends how they want to see their routes executed, and after a strong training camp building a clear rapport with Rivers, everybody was excited about Burton's potential within the Indy offense heading into 2020.
But Burton would go down with a calf injury in the Colts' second camp scrimmage at Lucas Oil Stadium, and was placed on injured reserve to begin the regular season. Required to miss a minimum of three games, Burton was brought back to practice on Wednesday, and now the team faces a 21-day deadline to decide whether to move him to the active roster or revert him to IR for the rest of the year.
While Burton's immediate availability for Sunday's Week 4 contest against his former team, the Bears, is unknown at this time, Rivers said he's looking forward to rebuilding some of that on-field chemistry with the tight end and eventually seeing it carry over into a game setting.
"He did have quite a few touches and certainly early on, I think the thing that stood out first time being around Trey and throwing to Trey is his feel," Rivers said. "Obviously, I said that about T.Y. (Hilton) three or four weeks ago, was his feel, and Trey has that at that tight end position. Just very good feel finding spots, being very – as we call it – friendly to the quarterback."
» Rivers has noticed a steady nature about his new team from a week-to-week perspective: Rivers wasn't exactly sure what to expect when he joined the Colts this offseason after spending the first 16 seasons of his career with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers. Sure, there was a great deal of familiarity with Reich, Sirianni and tight ends coach Jason Michael, all of whom were on the Chargers' offensive staff with Rivers at quarterback, but sometimes you just can't predict how your new team will function until you've played a couple games with them.
Rivers said he got his answer in the Colts' Week 2 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. After the team fell flat in many areas in its season-opening loss on the road to the division rival Jacksonville Jaguars, Rivers saw his team respond with a strong all-around performance in its first win the following week over the Vikings.
Then, this week, after a second straight convincing win, this time over the New York Jets, Rivers has noticed the same approach. Win or lose, he knows what to expect out of this bunch, and that can go a long way, he said.
"You come in after a good, big win the last two weeks and it is head down and focused," Rivers said. "The guys have a lot of fun and enjoy wins for sure, but it's just been very steady, very steady, focused approach. I'm not saying that doesn't surprised me, but that was just one thing that I found out now getting into the regular groove of the season."
» Unlike last week against the Jets, the Bears' defense doesn't give a ton of looks, but it does the simple things well: There are certain defensive coordinators you know are dead set on being unpredictable with their calls. The New York Jets' Gregg Williams and the Tennessee Titans, formerly under Dean Pees, are among the more "exotic" defensive minds in the game.
The Colts were able to move the ball with relative ease last Sunday against Williams and the Jets' defense in their 36-7 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium. But this Sunday's road contest against the Bears and their defensive coordinator, former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, is expected to feature a completely different look and feel.
While the Jets and the Bears both run a 3-4 base defensive scheme, Rivers said Pagano keeps things much more simple for his players than Williams, which can present its own challenges.
"They all play hard and they are very well-coached and well-disciplined, and they have a lot of good players too but he does a heck of a job with them," Rivers said of Pagano's defense. "They don't do a ton. (It's) different than last week. Last week there were people moving all over the place. Never know who's blitzing, never know what version of Cover-2 you're going to get with Gregg Williams. Whereas this week, it's not going to be just a rolodex of defenses but everything they do, it's hard to tell the difference of what they're going to be in. They do it very well and they're very sound. You don't see many things where you go well, 'Who's got this gap and who's covering this zone?' Everything is tight. It will be a heck of a challenge."
Rivers has plenty of experience taking on a Pagano-led defense; he's a combined 3-1 in four games facing Pagano when he's either been a defensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens (2011) or the Bears (2019), or a head coach with the Colts (2013 and 2016), and in those games, Rivers has combined to complete 89-of-124 (71.8 percent) passes for 1,034 yards with three touchdowns to one interception.