INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers today spoke to local reporters via video conference. What's the latest on his efforts to get on the same page as his receivers, how he approaches being both aggressive and smart down the field, his thoughts on rookie wideout Michael Pittman Jr. and more?
You can watch that entire session above, but here are some top takeaways:
» Colts coaches' past with Rivers and Chargers has allowed him to hit the ground running with receivers in camp: It's been well-documented how Rivers had previously worked with head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni when they were on the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers' coaching staff a few years back, which has allowed Rivers to have a near-seamless transition back into Reich's playbook now with the Colts.
But another major factor heading into training camp that's related to those past connections with the Chargers is the fundamentals being taught to the wide receivers.
Sirianni was the Chargers' offensive quality control coach, quarterbacks coach and wide receivers coach from 2013 through 2017, so the way the Colts are teaching their receivers to run routes and work with the quarterback is the exact same way Rivers had grown accustomed to out on the West Coast.
"That is very helpful, that I know how the route is being taught here, so we're not speaking any different language," Rivers said. "It's not, 'Oh, I like it this way, and the team here in the past has done it another way.' We see it the same way, so that's certainly been helpful."
And while the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out any official on-field work this offseason, Rivers said it's clear that the few reps he did get in with his receivers and tight ends out on their own in June and just before the start of camp are currently paying dividends.
"Just some of that communication, just talking through certain things about routes, that, 'Hey, I just feel this and I may throw it here,' and, you know, the things you can't really do on a phone call or in a Zoom meeting; it's better off standing on the practice field or watching on film," Rivers said. "So it's coming along great."
» Striking that balance of "aggressive or stupid" is a huge part of Rivers' approach: Rivers has proven his first 16 years in the league he's never going to be scared to chuck the ball down the field. That's how he's become one of the best passers in NFL history.
There is a method to this madness, however.
"I certainly feel confident in throwing the ball in tight windows or throwing the ball in tight coverage and being accurate where it's our ball or nobody," Rivers said. "Certainly I had some throws get away from me in the past — really, just last year more than anything. But I don't want that to turn me into someone that's scared to make a play, because I don't think you can play that way either. So I think there's a fine line there between aggressive and stupid."
Rivers referenced his 2019 season, in which he tossed 23 touchdowns to 20 interceptions; his 3.4 percent interception rate was the third-highest of his career. He said today he definitely owns up to every single one of those picks, but also thinks there are plenty of other plays throughout last year "where we'll come out of there feeling optimistic that we can have a heck of a year this year, which I know we can."
"I think the biggest thing for me is to be myself," Rivers said of moving on to 2020. "But also, find that sweet spot again, from aggressiveness to stupid, and know what kind of game it is and how the whole thing's coming together, and certainly have done that throughout my career in different years and different times, and don't see any reason why I can't do that again."
» Rivers can appreciate the rookie ups and downs being experienced by wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr.: The Colts selected Pittman Jr. in the second round of this year's NFL Draft, confident he not only had the potential to be an explosive playmaker within their offense, but also knowing he had a passion for the game and that level of intelligence needed to survive at the next level.
But this has been an unprecedented year for NFL rookies; the COVID-19 pandemic took away their on-field time with their new teams this offseason, meaning their first real exposure to the coaching staff on the field would have to come during training camp.
So, in that sense, Pittman Jr. and his rookie teammates are virtually brand new to the Colts' system. While he's been thrown into the fire throughout the first few days of training camp, Rivers likes what he's seen out of the USC product so far, and can even see clear improvement the last couple days especially.
"Each and every day he's going to improve, and there may be some bumps in the road throughout these next three, four weeks throughout the season; there may be some hiccups here and there, but he seems determined to get better every day," Rivers said. "And I think he's put together, to me, now the last two practices back-to-back where you're starting to see that."
From Sirianni, who has a background both playing receiver and coaching the position, to Rivers and the rest of the quarterbacks themselves, the Colts expect a lot out of their wideouts.
"We demand a lot of them, as well, as far as all the little, little, little details that make a difference in a completion or conversion of a third down or something to go or something not go" Rivers said. "So there's a lot asked of them, and I think Michael has done a heck of a job, you know, soaking it all in, realizing there's gonna be some bumps a little bit in the road."