Ryan Kelly On Entering Final Year Of Rookie Deal, Getting Comfortable With Philip Rivers

INDIANAPOLIS —Indianapolis Colts center Ryan Kelly today spoke to local reporters via video conference call. What did he have to say about entering the final year of his rookie contract, how even virtually the offense is trying to work through getting comfortable with new quarterback Philip Rivers, left tackle Anthony Castonzo's return and more?

You can watch that entire session above, but here are some top takeaways:

» Preliminary extension talks have begun between Kelly's representatives and the Colts as he enters the final year of his rookie contract: Kelly was the Colts' first-round (18th-overall) pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, and has seemingly improved with each season; last year, the Alabama product earned his first-career Pro Bowl selection, and he is widely gaining a reputation as one of the more cerebral players at his position in the league.

The Colts last year at this time decided to pick up Kelly's fifth-year option for this upcoming 2020 season, and now for the first time in his career he's officially entering a contract year.

Kelly said today his agent has had "a few conversations" with Colts general manager Chris Ballard about the possibility of a contract extension, and is optimistic that the two sides can get something done.

"I don't know if any numbers have been thrown around yet, but obviously I have the most confidence in Chris that I think we have something special on our offensive line," Kelly said. "So, yeah, I'd like to play my entire career in Indianapolis, and I truly believe that I'll be here for awhile, I hope."

As for now, however, Kelly is just going to put his time and energy into getting ready for the upcoming season.

"(I'm) just trying to keep my mind on working out and getting ready for the season, so that's kind of where my head's been at so far," he said.

» Kelly and the Colts are using their virtual sessions to work through play calls and cadences with new quarterback Philip Rivers: Every quarterback has their own quirks and style when it comes to what they're like in the huddle, announcing play calls and with their their cadences just before the ball is snapped. Kelly learned that lesson quickly when he began as a rookie in 2016, as he was thrown right into the fire that offseason as the starting center with then-quarterback Andrew Luck.

Since that time, in working mostly with Luck and Jacoby Brissett, Kelly has learned how to handle multiple styles going back and forth between different quarterbacks. He's putting those skills to use with Rivers, the team's new starting quarterback who was signed to a free-agent deal in March.

And just because the Colts are holding virtual meetings doesn't mean Kelly, Rivers and the rest of the offense can't start getting ahead in this area.

"That's kind of the hard part about this whole (coronavirus) thing is not being able to get out there and get live reps with his certain cadences that he likes to do, and so I think what we've done so well is that Frank (Reich) and Nick (Sirianni) and all the guys on the offensive side have really got us going in the fact that we're gonna figure out the best we can how to get live reps on Zoom," Kelly said. "And that's what we've been doing the last couple days, and so I think that's really been helping a lot."

Kelly said the coaches will relay a play call to Rivers, who will say, "'Alright, we're in the huddle. Here's the formation, here's the play, here's the cadence, and then we go to the line of scrimmage and we'll cut to a play, and we'll kind of run through it the best that we can.'

"You know, we're doing everything that we can do get live reps; if you visualize it enough, it'll come over time to get used to it," Kelly continued. "So as far as doing the cadence and his presence in the huddle, it's obviously going to be paramount that we get that down, and I think we're doing a good job."

» Kelly has been working out in Indianapolis with fellow offensive linemen Mark Glowinski and Braden Smith: While all 90 of the players on the Colts' offseason roster are currently spread out all over the country with the various stay-at-home and social distancing measures put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are some guys who have decided to stick around the Indianapolis area.

Kelly and fellow offensive line starters Glowinski (right guard) and Smith (right tackle) have been working together on their own, trying to help each other get back into "football shape."

"We did borrow a few things from the complex — we had to pull some strings to let us have them, and some bags and stuff like that — and it's just crazy to think about how fast you get out of football shape," Kelly said. "You know, being in workout shape and being in football shape is totally different, so to be getting in your stance and hitting combos together and just being able to punch and do those things, it's just gonna give us a leg up."

» Kelly was ecstatic when left tackle Anthony Castonzo decided to return to the Colts earlier this offseason: Castonzo, the Colts' starting left tackle the past nine years, said after the conclusion of the 2019 season he was realistically deciding between either re-signing with the Colts for a 10th season or retiring.

After taking some time to consider his options, Castonzo on March 15 formally signed a reported two-year contract extension that keeps him in Indy through at least the 2021 season.

Kelly said he had let Castonzo know how much he'd like to have him back, but he was also going to respect whatever decision he ended up coming to.

"Obviously Anthony and I have grown our relationship over the past four years, and it would've really hurt to lose a player like him; not just a player, but such an incredible teammate," Kelly said. "You know, having a guy like that, a 10-year vet in the offensive line room, is so crucial. But ultimately you see some guys retire early; I think Travis Frederick just pulled the trigger after seven years. And so it depends on every guy's situation, so obviously if he was to walk away, 'Hey man, you've had a hell of a career. Best of luck in retirement. And we'll keep moving.'

"And so the craziest thing about the NFL is guys come and go so quickly (that) you've gotta make it work, but obviously having 74 at the left tackle position is obviously going give us the best edge to win games," Kelly continued, "and I couldn't be happier he's back."

See some of the best images of Indianapolis Colts center Ryan Kelly.

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