AFC South Reporter
Colts general manager Chris Ballard has a conversation with every rookie who joins the team. He tells them that there’s going to be a point when they disagree. It’s usually about money.
“It’s going to be hard,” Ballard tells the rookies. “Just know that that doesn’t change my care level for you.”
That was Ballard’s biggest message about the ongoing contract saga with Jonathan Taylor. In a nearly half-hour press conference Wednesday, dominated by questions about the star running back, Ballard expressed a commitment to repairing the relationship with Taylor.
It’s one that is broken. One that has devolved dramatically over the past couple months. A mess that spilled onto social media.
[Arthur: Jim Irsay’s tweet adds tension to Colts’ contract stalemate with Jonathan Taylor]
Amid all of that and the team’s reluctance to broach contract talks — owner Jim Irsay told local reporters that he wouldn’t do so until Taylor’s rookie deal expires after this season — Taylor requested a trade at the end of July.
“I care deeply for Jonathan Taylor,” Ballard said. “I have great respect for Jonathan Taylor. … I won’t quit on the relationship. I won’t do it. I think too much of the young man. I think too much of what he’s given our organization and how hard he has played for us.
“I’m not going to sit here and give you some rosy picture, like everything is OK,” he continued. “It sucks. It sucks for the Colts. And it sucks for our fans. It does. It’s where we’re at and we have to work through it, and we’re going to do everything we can to work through it.”
Jonathan Taylor headlines Chris Broussard’s Under Duress List
Ballard confirmed that the organization gave Taylor permission to seek a trade partner, but he wasn’t dealt ahead of final roster cuts. The NFL’s trade deadline is Oct. 31. For now, Taylor is on the Physically Unable to Perform list, which means he must miss at least the first four games of the season, tending to an ankle injury Ballard says is still legit, despite growing speculation to the contrary.
When asked if Taylor understands how much he cares about him, Ballard didn’t have an answer, just saying there’s a “fine line” he tries to juggle between business and personal.
When asked if Taylor has given any indication that he’s willing to still play for the Colts, Ballard again didn’t have a direct answer, saying, “We’ll keep working through it.”
[Arthur: Jonathan Taylor is still a Colt heading into regular season. Now what?]
But Indianapolis’ general manager will keep believing in the relationship when there’s been no evidence his faith will reap rewards.
“Relationships are repairable,” Ballard stressed. “They’re repairable. Guys get emotional and take a stance. You got to be able to work through those. If you ever in your life had a good friend and a spouse, family member that you’ve had a disagreement with and then you draw a line in the sand and say this person is out of my life. Well, no. I mean, how do you do that? You work through it, and hopefully you come out on the other side better because of it.
“In our country right now, everywhere, you can’t just disagree,” he continued, speaking broadly. “You can’t. Because if you disagree, you’re totally wrong and you draw a line in the sand and then the relationship is broken. Like, how do you come to solutions that way? How do you come to a solution? How do you get to the root of the problem and fix it?”
[Arthur: What could Colts’ running game look like without Jonathan Taylor?]
The state of the Colts-Taylor relationship is perhaps summed up best by what was said at the end of Ballard’s press conference, when he was asked how the state of the running-back market has played a role into what he feels is fair for both sides.
And he took the same stance that he did back in January, after the Colts’ 2022 season — that great players, regardless of position, deserve top dollar.
“The running-back market is what it is,” he said, “but great players are what they are, too.”
Then he was reminded that Taylor is a great player.
So why can’t he be paid?
“We won four games last year,” Ballard responded. “We won four games.”
Why is coming off a bad season a barrier for paying a player you believe is great?
It comes off as a lack of respect. And strong relationships, the kind Ballard wants, are built on respect.
“I’m not going to sit here and say I’ve got the magic answer,” Ballard said. “No. This is complex, and it’s just something we’ve got to work through and find an answer.”
Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.
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