INDIANAPOLIS — “Unfinished business” — both as a team and as an individual player — is what’s on Clayton Geathers’ mind these days.
And after hitting free agency for the first time in his career, Geathers said that’s what ultimately led him back to the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center on Wednesday, where he officially put pen to paper on a reported one-year deal to return to the Indianapolis Colts in 2019.
“It feels good to be back in the building,” the safety told Colts.com just moments after signing his deal. “Indy’s home right now. So the team, training staff, coaches — everyone in this building, man, it feels like home. So it’s good to be back.”
That aforementioned “unfinished business,” meanwhile, is two-fold.
First, Geathers is eager to get a chance to see what he can do with a clean bill of health. A fourth-round selection of the Colts back in the 2015 NFL Draft, Geathers has made a clear impact in his 41 career games, collecting 180 tackles (3.0 for a loss) with nine passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
But a variety of injuries have unfortunately kept Geathers from realizing his true potential to this point of his NFL career.
In 2016, Geathers’ season ended nine games in after he suffered a serious neck injury while making a game-saving tackle in a win over the Tennessee Titans. The resulting surgery also caused Geathers to miss all but five games of the 2017 season.
Then, last offseason, Geathers underwent knee surgery, causing him to miss the entire offseason program and a good chunk of training camp. He was good to go to start the regular season, but a nagging knee issue would keep Geathers on the team’s weekly injury report for all but four games in 2018.
Geathers also dealt with elbow and neck injuries in 2018, while he also suffered a concussion back in Week 5. He overcame those issues to play in 12 games (all starts) last season, compiling a career-best 86 tackles (59 solo; one for a loss) with three passes defensed, two quarterback hits and one forced fumble playing all over the field in first-year coordinator Matt Eberflus’ defense.
Geathers said Wednesday he’s put those injury issues from 2018 behind him, and that he’s been able to focus solely on football so far this offseason.
“(I was) battling through some things, you know?” Geathers said. “I just didn’t want to be off the field. I wanted to be out there with the guys. I feel like I had a lot to prove; I feel like I could do a lot of things. So just week-to-week (I'm) battling, and that’s just my mindset. If I can go, I can go. So now that I’m back, healthy, looking good, feeling good, I’m just ready to get back and show the fans what I can do.”
The other factor in his return to the Colts is the feeling that the team is on an upward trajectory — something Geathers said he wanted to see play out for another season.
Despite starting with a 1-5 record, the Colts in 2018 won nine out of their last 10 regular season games to earn a spot in the postseason, and then went on the road to defeat their divisional rival, the Houston Texans, in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs before bowing out to the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round.
“It was a good season,” Geathers said. “You saw once we started clicking, knocked off 10 straight. And now it’s just taking that next step — now it’s taking that next step from being good to great.”
Geathers said he appreciated the opportunity to hit the open market for the first time in his career, but in the end, there was only one team he could envision playing for in 2019.
“It was a journey,” Geathers said. “Hitting free agency, I think that was good for me, and then (I could) weigh my options. And just to sit down with my wife and we talk about it and all the great things here, and it was a no-brainer. There’s unfinished business, you know? What we did last year was great, and we’re only going to get better.”