INDIANAPOLIS — Defensive tackle Sheldon Day and cornerback Xavier Rhodes, two of the newest members of the Indianapolis Colts' defense, on Monday chatted with the local media. What were some of the top takeaways from their sessions?
How do you feel like your skillset fits with the Colts' defensive scheme?
Day: "In San Francisco we played in an attacking front, something similar to what the Colts play. And it's about penetrating, playing fast, playing physical and flying to the ball. So a lot of similarities when you look at us both on film. And watching the Colts on film, energy always jumps off the tape; guys are running to the ball, they're having fun, they're playing as a unit, and just to get a chance to be a part of something like this is gonna be special."
How do you hope your prior relationship with DeForest Buckner will pay off here with the Colts?
Day: "We've been building chemistry for a while now. I actually met DeForest when we were 16 … so we have good chemistry (and) been knowing each other for a while, and we have little cues that we give each other while we're playing to make sure that we can play comfortable with each other, and we're always feeding off each other, trying to make sure that we play at our best levels. During the week we always drop little hints on film or we're always asking each other questions, bouncing ideas of each other to help us succeed."
Why did you ultimately sign with the Colts?
Day: "Of course, coming home to Indy was a no-brainer for me. I think they reached out and there was interest, and it kind of got down to the nitty-gritty and everybody was trying to figure out numbers and all that other type of stuff, but ultimately I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."
What will you and Buckner add to the Colts' defense?
Day: "Just the intensity and the effort we play with. Trying to play hard every single down. Make sure we impose our will, and make sure that we are infectious when it comes to the energy bucket, so we're always trying to fill it up. No matter what the circumstances (are) — it can be 4th and 1, game on the line — we're still going to be playing fast, hard and physical; we can be up by 20, we're still going to be flying around having fun. So it's about spreading the infectious desire to have fun throughout the entire unit."
Buckner said he practices hard, and it might get under other guys' skin at times. Are you the same way?
Day: "You've got to. You've gotta work your craft every day. I mean, if the person across from you can't appreciate that, then they don't want you to be the best — and they obviously don't want to be the best, because you're giving them your best, so ultimately that's making them better. So practice is where we get better; practice is where we hone in on our details and make sure that we play as fast as we can on Sundays, so ultimately we've got to play our best in practice so that we can succeed on Sundays."
Growing up in Indianapolis, who were your favorite Colts players?
Day: "I love Peyton (Manning). I love Edgerrin (James). I love Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis. We're gonna go with G.B. — Gary Brackett. He was underrated, undersized linebacker and he held that unit together. He was a special player for sure."
What is your comfort level playing zone defense, which is the Colts' base coverage scheme?
Rhodes: "(This) last previous year we played a ton of zone — Cover 2, quarters and Cover 3. So, I mean, football is just protecting the boundary. I'm not afraid of going to into this team and trying new (things); I know that the coaches know my strength, and we're gonna work on both playing their game and also playing mine, mixing both into it so I can be comfortable being myself and playing in the game, and also those guys can be comfortable calling the plays that they wanna call."
What was your reaction when you learned the Vikings were moving on from you?
Rhodes: "The last two years, it's been a battle, especially with injuries. So, you know, with that, it moves on. Eventually — I didn't know from the beginning that the Vikings were going to move on, but then it hit me later on. I eventually figured it out and found out, but like I said, it's a new chapter. I'm with the Colts now, and I'm willing to work with this organization and fight and try to win the team a championship and lead the DBs to let them play to the best of their ability."
What led to some inconsistencies in your play the last couple seasons?
Rhodes: "There was more to it, but it was mostly injuries. So being that, it's football; you're out there playing, you can't make no excuses for yourself. When you're on that field you've just gotta play to the best of your ability, and last year wasn't my best season. So I accepted that, and now that the Vikings moved on from that I'm playing for the Colts."
Some people are saying your best playing days are behind you. How do you respond to that criticism? Do you have something to prove this year?
Rhodes: "You can't really pay attention to people. Football is football, man — you're going to always face challenges in this game. Each and every week you've gotta prove yourself, to someone and to yourself, because each and every week is a new challenge. You can't be settled in this game. So, by that, that comes with the territory, that comes with the game at the same time. So I don't feel like I need to prove myself to anyone but myself."
Is this a fresh start for you? Was it humbling getting let go and going through the free agency process?
Rhodes: "Like I say: you don't go in thinking you're going to be cut, or you don't go in thinking … when you're on a team and you achieve so much at one team, you know, you just think that's gonna be forever. But then it's (a) reality check and you realize, hey, it's time to get on it. This is a business at the end of the day; no one is safe, no matter who you are or what player you are — as you can see there's many other players you could use as examples. But, like I said, it's just a reality check to the point where no one's irreplaceable in this league; you always have to be at your best behavior, you always have to prove yourself each and every week, each and every year. And every week is a new year, every year is a new year. So no matter what you did last year or the year before, it's all about what you're doing this year."
What are you working on to get back that high level of play?
Rhodes: "Playing ball. Playing better, I guess — I don't know. Just playing better, man. Like I said, if you watch the film, you know, it wasn't that I was getting beat or anything, I just couldn't get the ball out of the receiver's hand. I was on every receiver I was covering, it was just a point of getting the ball out of their hands, and that's what I've been working on this year, and just locating the ball a lot faster and reacting to the ball a lot faster than I was last year."
Which members of the Colts' coaching staff had you worked with previously?
Rhodes: "Alan (Williams) and J.G. (Jonathan Gannon) … I spoke to J.G. the whole free agency process, and, yeah, he knows me as a player, he knows what I'm about. And, like I said, I wanted a fresh start, and that was the guy that I chose to be with, because he understood be as a player when I was at Minnesota with me — him and Alan."
Why ultimately did you pick the Colts?
Rhodes: "Because J.G. and Alan, the coaches I knew that knew me and the type of player I am."
In this Colts' defense they expect their cornerbacks to be willing tacklers. Is that something you bring to the table?
Rhodes: "I mean, that's my game. And also, they watch film, and you guys know if you watch my game, that's me as a player. I'm a physical guy, I'm an aggressive guy, I'm not afraid to come up and make the tackles. So by them reaching out and knowing me, they know what they were signing, so if that's what they wanted, that's what they're gonna get."