INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton today spoke with local reporters via video conference call. What did he have to say about entering a contract year in 2020, how he'll go about trying to build a rapport with a new quarterback in Philip Rivers, the messages he's passing on to the rookies and more?
You can listen to that session in its entirety above, but here are some highlights:
» Entering a contract year in 2020, Hilton has expressed his interest to remain a "Colt for life:" It was the Colts who took a chance on Hilton in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, and it's been in Indianapolis where he's been able to develop into one of the more dangerous wide receivers in the NFL over the last eight seasons, four of which have ended in Pro Bowl selections.
Hilton, in all, has played in 118 games with 97 starts, logging 552 receptions for 8,598 yards (15.6 yards per reception) with 45 touchdowns. He ranks fourth in Colts franchise history in receptions and yards, and is seventh in touchdown receptions; his 72.9 yards-per-game figure ranks second in franchise history for players with at least 100 receptions, and only trails Pro Football Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison.
But Hilton turns 31 in November, and he's hoping for a bounce-back year after an injury-plagued 2019 campaign. He said he's expressed his desire to sign one more contract extension to eventually retire as a member of the Colts if that's in the cards, whether he's able to sign in the near future or go out and put up another big performance in 2020 and get the deal done next offseason.
"I mean, my work speaks for itself. When I'm out there I know what I can do," Hilton said. "But these last two years I've been a little banged up, so this year if they want me to prove it, I'll prove it. But I think everybody would want me here, so I want to be here."
Hilton said he's had "a few talks" with the team this offseason about a possible contract extension, but those have stalled since the COVID-19 pandemic started to pick up steam in March, leading to various stay-at-home and social distancing orders across the country. Hilton said "whenever things pick back up, I'm pretty sure hopefully we could get something done," but if not, "it's up to Mr. (Jim) Irsay and Chris (Ballard)."
"I wanna be here," Hilton said. "So it is what it is."
» Hilton is already building a connection with new quarterback Philip Rivers: While normal circumstances would allow for Hilton and Rivers to use this time to start getting their timing down on the field, they're doing their best to make sure they're connecting in the virtual meeting room so that they can hit the ground running whenever they are allowed to work out together in person.
"We talk almost every day on Zoom or whenever me and him talk on the phone," Hilton said of Rivers. "He calls me up — just him getting to know me, me getting to know him, asking those personal questions about one another. So that's about it; until we get on the field, we're just catching up with one another and seeing what we like."
Hilton said it's clear that Rivers has plenty of experience within head coach Frank Reich's offensive system; Reich was Rivers' quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator with the San Diego Chargers from 2013-15.
"He's already taken control of meetings, so he's asking questions, knowing the terminology," Hilton said, referring to Rivers. "He's been in this offense, so just some things we've changed up with different names, so he's just getting those things down, and once he gets those down, he'll be ready to go."
Hilton is excited to see what the offense can do once the season arrives.
"I think Philip brings a lot of experience. You know, a future Hall of Famer, knows the offense really well — you know, he used it in San Diego; we've got some stuff we use here," Hilton said. "So I feel like we can always get better, but Phil's a guy that I see taking us to the next level."
» Hilton is passing along advice Reggie Wayne gave him to the new batch of Colts rookie receivers: The Colts took USC standout wideout Michael Pittman Jr. with their second-round (34th-overall) pick in this year's NFL Draft, and also added another big-bodied target, Washington State's Dezmon Patmon, in the sixth round.
Back in 2012, Hilton was the wide-eyed rookie, but he always felt fortunate to have a future Hall of Famer in Reggie Wayne there to show him the ropes. Hilton said he's going to pass along the same message to guys like Pittman Jr. and Patmon.
"The main thing Reggie always told me was make sure you know your playbook in and out, and whenever your number's called just make sure you're ready, 'cause you never know when you're number's going to be called, you never know when somebody's gonna go down, whenever somebody's gonna get tired," Hilton said. "So you gotta get in, and you can't miss a beat, because if you miss a beat, then something bad is gonna happen. So you just wanna make sure when that time comes and you're in the game, you make sure you're ready and you know all your plays."
Hilton said he liked what he saw when checking out some of Pittman Jr.'s highlights after his selection by the Colts a couple weeks back.
"I see he's a big body, he goes up and gets the ball real well, it looks like he's light on his feet," Hilton said. "I just can't wait to actually sit down with him, get to know him and see how he does for us."
» Hilton is feeling healthy and is working out twice a day to stay that way: In 2018, Hilton was struck by high and low sprains to the same ankle down the stretch, injuries that might've slowed him down at times, but didn't seem to limit his production for a Colts team that caught fire and advanced to the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
Last year, however, it was a "fluky" non-contact calf injury suffered during practice that derailed Hilton's season, limiting him to a career-low 10 games played. In some of those games he did play in 2019, Hilton was utilized more as a decoy just due to the value he brings simply by being on the field.
Prior to 2018, Hilton had never played fewer than 15 games in a season, and he had played all 16 games on four occasions. He said he's feeling fully healthy once again and thinks he'll be able to jump right back in to where he was a couple years ago.
"I kind of let my teammates down last year by being hurt, being injured — things you really can't control. You know, it's not like you're playing "Madden" and can cut injuries off. So my main thing now is just to get my body back where it is, which right now (since) towards the end of the season I've been 100 percent," Hilton said. "So just staying on top of my game; I'm working out twice a day so I don't let my teammates down so I'm out there just doing what I'm doing, and just helping them out the best way I can. But, you know, the motivation is to get back where I was, and that's being on top of the game."
Hilton knows how to self-motivate himself to get ready to go, but said missing so much action last year definitely added fuel to his fire.
"I missed a lot of games last year, and that's something that it can't happen, because my teammates need me on the field," Hilton said. "So I'm doing everything I can — like I said, I'm working out twice a day, just continuing to grind, continuing to get better, and when it's time for us to get back out there, everybody's gonna feel me."
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