INDIANAPOLIS — Newest Indianapolis Colts tight end Trey Burton, who was signed to a free agent deal Wednesday night, spoke to local media members via video conference call on Friday.
You can listen to that session in its entirety above, but what were some of the top takeaways?
» Burton's release from the Chicago Bears was a "surprise" on one hand, but the Colts quickly came calling: After spending the first four seasons of his career as an up-and-coming backup option at tight end with the Philadelphia Eagles, Burton in 2018 got his big break, signing a reported four-year, $32 million free agent deal with the Bears. He would put up a career year in 2018, logging 54 receptions for 569 yards and six touchdowns, but had some bad luck with injury issues for the first time in his career just before the start of the 2019 season, and after trying to battle his way back but just not getting close to 100 percent, he was placed on injured reserve in mid-November, and underwent surgery to his hip the following month.
Burton said he felt encouraged by his situation with the Bears at the start of this offseason, and even had "really positive" conversations with the team in the weeks that followed, which is why he was caught a little off-guard last Friday when the team announced his release.
"You know, everybody seemed to be excited about me getting healthy and being able to play this upcoming year, so I think that was the reason why I was more surprised," Burton said. "You always know there's an understanding there's a possibility that things like that can happen, especially if you don't produce or have the season that you want to have. So I wouldn't say I was surprised from that standpoint; I was more surprised from (where) the past and previous conversations we had were really good."
Perhaps not surprisingly, it didn't take long for suitors to come calling, however. Burton said Frank Reich — his former offensive coordinator for two seasons with the Eagles — and the Colts "were one of the first calls that we got."
Oh, and that phone call from Reich? It lasted 45 minutes, Burton said, "and a small part of it was about football."
"He's just so genuine," Burton said of Reich. "There's not much fluff with him. It's all real, truth, talk.
"You know, he's always asking about how family's doing, really wants to know how I'm feeling, what's going on, and I just think he's a rock star."
» Burton knows all about Reich's tight end-friendly offense: Burton was a key playmaker for Reich's offense with the Eagles when the latter was Philly's offensive coordinator in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. In 2016, Burton was targeted with a career-high 60 passes, and the following year he hauled in five touchdown receptions to help lead the Eagles to their first-ever Super Bowl title.
(As we've mentioned before, it was Burton — who began his college career at Florida as a dual-threat quarterback — who tossed the one-yard touchdown pass to quarterback Nick Foles just before halftime of that Super Bowl LII matchup against the New England Patriots; that play, the "Philly Special," is now part of Philadelphia sports lore.)
And now, after getting another couple years under his belt in a different offensive system, Burton is more than excited about the opportunity to return to the comforts of a Reich-led offense with the Colts and their new quarterback, Philip Rivers.
"Well, they love the tight ends. And I'm excited because I'm walking into an unbelievable opportunity from the tight end room," Burton said when asked about why Indy was so attractive to him. "I mean, there's some great guys in there — guys who have played at a really high level before, guys who I have watched in the past and (I) respect the heck out of them and their game and how they've played. So that was one of the things that I was really excited about, but then also just the fact that this offense is based around tight ends. You know, Philip, over his career, notoriously loves throwing the ball to tight ends, and he's had a lot of really good ones he's been able to throw to. So just knowing Frank personally from previous teams and things like that, it was basically a no-brainer for me."
» Burton loves to be involved in the passing game, but he's also just as committed as a blocker: Burton's athleticism is apparent when you throw on his game film, and he's seemingly gotten better with every healthy season he's had in the NFL. In six seasons with the Eagles and the Bears, he's accumulated 131 receptions for 1,282 yards and 12 touchdowns.
But at 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds, Burton doesn't exactly have ideal size for a tight end at the NFL level, where you're usually expected to at times assist as an in-line blocker.
But much like Jack Doyle, who has built himself into a two-time Pro Bowl selection with the Colts, Burton doesn't mind doing the dirty work if the ball isn't coming his way.
In fact, he's thrived in that area.
In 2018, Burton was rated by Pro Football Focus as the top-blocking tight end in the entire NFL; Doyle, by the way, ranked third on that same list.
Whether it's executing a perfect seal block in the run game, or thwarting would-be edge rushers and linebackers in the pass game, Burton is what one might call a "willing" blocker at tight end.
"They love pass-catching tight ends, and fortunately that's what I am. I enjoy playing that position. I'm also a guy that's not afraid to put my hand in the dirt," Burton said when asked how the Colts' offense suits his game. "You know, I'm undersized — I know that; everybody knows that — but blocking is more of a mentality than a size thing. Mentality and technique is really what matters. And so I think I've grown tremendously over the last four years at this position, and I've learned a lot from Philly and from Chicago and the guys that I've been surrounded by. I've been fortunate to have some great coaches, so without those guys I wouldn't be where I'm at."
» Burton is ready to shed any sort of "injury-prone" label he's had of late: The word "injury prone" gets thrown around the NFL perhaps too much, and Burton is the perfect example to back up this claim.
In his first five seasons in the NFL, Burton played 15, 16, 15, 15 and 16 games — that's a 96.3 percent availability rate.
And, yes, he had some issues with a couple injuries last year with the Bears — a scenario Burton said was compounded by "a bunch of things," including a misdiagnosis before the start of the season, and then trying to get back to game action a little too quickly — but after undergoing hip surgery in December, Burton said he's right on track, or even a little ahead, in his recovery process that should have him good to go by training camp.
"I think if I can actually get healthy — which is something I haven't been able to do just because some of the things I went through in the past — if I can get healthy, I'm not an injury-prone type of guy, never really been injured before, and so if I can get healthy, which I believe I will be able to, I'm really excited for the season," Burton said.
"It's tough, man. You know, you get injured once, and then all of a sudden you're 'injury prone,'" he continued. "And people have no clue some of the things that guys have to go through in order to get back, so I'm just excited to get back and to play ball again."
See some of the best images of tight end Trey Burton as he signs with the Indianapolis Colts in 2020 free agency.