INDIANAPOLIS — Seemingly each and every time the Indianapolis Colts put the ball in Robert Turbin's hands in 2016, something good happened.
As the team's second-string running back, Turbin, a bruiser at 5 foot 10, 225 pounds, oftentimes found himself on the field in short-yardage and goal-line situations throughout the season, and the fifth-year Utah State product responded to the tune of eight total touchdowns — seven on the ground and one via the pass.
Turbin's value for the team was also apparent in other less obvious — but just as important — ways. He improved greatly as a pass protector on third downs, spelled starting running back Frank Gore and was also relied upon for the team's special teams units.
So with all that Turbin meant to the Colts in 2016, one might imagine the team would like to re-sign the unrestrictred free agent to-be to return to the team in 2017.
For Turbin — given how the season ended, with the team narrowly missing out on a spot in the postseason — the feeling is mutual.
"It'd be a great thing to be back with this team," Turbin said the day after the Colts' Week 17, season-ending victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars. "I've been here since April, and since that time I've grown a connection with the guys in this locker room and the coaching staff, and we've built a pretty solid relationship. And when you do that, it's hard to leave — especially when the season ends like this; you feel like there's unfinished business."
Turbin signed with the Colts as an unrestricted free agent last offseason after playing in parts of four seasons with the Seattle Seahawks — who took Turbin in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft — from 2012 to 2014 and then with the Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys in 2015.
In Seattle, he was backup to another potential Hall of Fame running back in Marshawn Lynch, where he learned to take advantage of every opportunity that came his way, even if those opportunities at times were few and far between.
It's that attitude that won over the Colts' coaching staff when Turbin arrived last offseason.
"He prepares really well and he takes advantage of every opportunity that he's been given whether they're blocking roles, as a runner, as a pass protector, he's done a great job for us," Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said of Turbin. "Special teams, he hadn't been a core teamer. He didn't come in here as a core teamer, but he's a selfless guy and a team first guy so he embraced that role and he's done a great job for us on special teams. And then every time you put him out on the field he seems to produce. It's a credit to him as a football player, a teammate, his character – glad he's on our side."
Taking a look at Turbin's stats throughout his career, including the 2016 season with the Colts, there's not a ton that immediately jumps out. In his five years in the NFL, Turbin has ran the ball 328 times for 1,291 yards (for a 3.9 yards-per-carry average) and caught 76 passes for 629 yards.
But his 2016 season proved that value goes way beyond the stat sheet. His eight total touchdowns were a career-high by far and tied Gore for the most on the team, and his 26 receptions were a career-best, topping his previous high of 19 catches his rookie year in 2012.
All of this while learning a new role as both a runner and a pass protector.
"He's really embraced his role this season and that's been doing a lot of different things," Colts offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski said. "I've seen big, big improvement as a pass protector. I don't know that that was something that he had ever done before, being a third-down back in the protection game and all those types of things. He's learned to do that. He had some great pickups in the game. He's obviously been in there in a companion role with Frank (Gore) as a runner and producing. I think efficiency is a good word."
Turbin said he believed he did "what I was asked to do to the best of my ability" in 2016, and credited those around him for allowing him to thrive.
"I give a lot of credit to my (running backs) coach, Coach Jemal (Singleton) and really the entire coaching staff, (for) believing in me and giving me a chance and giving me an opportunity and coaching me well enough to be able to get better as the season progressed," Turbin said. "It always feels good when you're getting better throughout the season, and when you're given a role. Some guys don't have roles, and so I'm thankful for the role that I've been able to have."
Now the hope is that Turbin can continue to expand on that role even more in the Colts' backfield this next season. While he enters the offseason as an unrestricted free agent, Turbin said that feeling of "unfinished business" makes re-signing in Indianapolis an attractive option.
"You want to come back with these guys and go after the goal that we set to go out for ourselves, and that's to win a championship, you know?" said Turbin, who won a title with the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. "And it makes it hard to leave, and you want to be dedicated and loyal to your teammates, and so it definitely builds a big urge to want to come back."
Seeing Turbin back on the team in 2017 would be just fine for Gore, who considered his fellow running back "a young guy who I saw get better (from) when he first got here."
"I'm happy for Turbo," Gore said. "I have to take my hats off to (Colts running backs coach Jemal Singleton); I think Turbo has gotten a lot better since he's gotten here."
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