WESTFIELD – Jonathan Taylor’s impasse has overshadowed virtually every aspect of training camp.
That includes the daily development of rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson – and the progress of the team as a whole – as the Indianapolis Colts slog away at Grand Park Sports Campus.
It’s also hard evidence there’s more than one way for a player interested in securing an extension to handle the final year of his rookie contract.
Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. have been offensive cornerstones since being selected in round 2 of the 2020 draft. Taylor was taken with the 41st overall pick, Pittman in the 34th slot.
The Colts have a history of rewarding a worthy player with an extension as he heads into the final year of his contract – you know the names: Shaquille Leonard, Braden Smith, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Nelson, etc. – and that’s led to speculation they would continue the trend with Taylor and Pittman.
Hasn’t happened. Probably won’t happen.
About the divergent paths being traveled.
Taylor continues to wear his hoodie and watch as his teammates go through one, two . . . now six camp practices. We’ve addressed his timeline ad nauseam: wanted an extension that would make him one of the NFL’s highest-paid running backs, opened camp on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) while finishing rehab from January surgery on his right ankle, requested a trade after the team made it crystal clear there will be no extension talks until after this season, probably wasn’t excited when owner Jim Irsay insisted “we will not trade Jonathan Taylor . . . not now and now in October.’’
It’s worth wondering if Taylor is staging a “hold in’’ to express his displeasure with the Colts. The approximate rehab time for the type of surgery Taylor had in January – arthroscopic debridement, a “keyhole surgery’’ to remove loose particles in the ankle – is roughly six weeks.
Taylor refuted reports by FOX59/CBS4 and ESPN that he sustained some type back injury while working out on his own in Arizona.
The bottom line: Taylor isn’t practicing.
He’s the team’s leading receiver – 227 receptions, 2,510 yards, 11 TDs – in three seasons and with zero stability at quarterback. Pittman missed most of the team’s organized team activities (OTAs) with a hip injury, but has been on the field since camp opened.
Make no mistake, Pittman wants an extension.
“I think every player wants to get paid,’’ he said after Thursday’s practice. “I wouldn’t mind one.’’
But withholding his services isn’t an option.
“Do I expect it? I mean, I don’t really expect nothing,’’ he said. “If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t happen, then, yeah, I would play it out without an extension.’’
Chris Ballard has spoke glowingly about Taylor and Pittman since adding them to the roster in April 2020. He reiterated his appreciation for Pittman when camp opened.
“I love Pitt,’’ he said. “That freaking dude likes to compete and he had frustrating moments (last season). He was frustrated because he’s a competitor. Here we were as a team and we weren’t playing well and he was frustrated and he was emotional, which I love.
“I don’t mind guys that are emotional and care because they want to win and . . . want the ball. I would rather have a guy like Pitt who wants it and wants to win and does all the little things competitively right instead of a guy that just accepts what his role is.
“Having him, his presence, his competitive nature, the way he works . . . he’s a big piece of what we do.’’
The financial requirements to retain one – or both – are enormous.
Taylor has a base salary of $4.3 million and the running back market is experiencing a downturn. The top per-season averages belong to San Francisco’s Christian McCaffrey ($16 million), New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara ($15 million), Tennessee’s Derrick Henry ($12.5 million), Cleveland’s Nick Chubb ($12.2 million) and Green Bay’s Aaron Jones ($11.5 million).
Pittman carries a base salary of $2.99 million and is eager to move into the receivers’ swanky neighborhood.
According to overthecap.com, 13 receivers average at least $20 million per season. The top 6: Miami’s Tyreek Hill ($30 million), the Raiders’ Davante Adams ($28 million), the Rams’ Cooper Kupp ($26.7 million), Philadelphia’s A.J. Brown ($25 million), Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs ($24 million) and Seattle’s D.K. Metcalf ($24 million).
Busy day for Richardson
The latest step on Richardson’s evolution involved taking all 22 first-team reps Thursday. It marked the second straight practice the No. 4 overall pick in the draft handled all first-team reps.
Shane Steichen downplayed the situation.
“He missed that day with the surgery, so we just got him back-to-back days,’’ he said.
Richardson missed Monday’s practice after undergoing nose surgery on Sunday.
His busy day resulted in completing 8-of-13 passes with cornerback Darrell Baker Jr. getting to him for one interception.
According to 107.5 The Fan’s Kevin Bowen, Richardson has had 61 snaps with the starting offense and Gardner Minshew II 42. Richardson has completed 27-of-48 passes (56%) and Minshew 50-of-66 (75.8%).
Thursday’s work included a pair of two-minute sessions. One produced points, the other didn’t.
Richardson sparked the No. 1 offense with what would have been a third-down scramble for a third down and a completion to Pittman that moved the chains. Kicker Matt Gay finished the drive by converting a 58-yard field goal.
Minshew’s opportunity wasn’t as successful. Gay pulled a 43-yard field-goal attempt wide right.
Defensive end DeForest Buckner wasn’t able to finish practice because of a foot injury.
Rookie cornerback Darius Rush (shoulder) practiced for the first time, but fellow rookie/cornerback JuJu Brents (hamstring) remained out.
“Hopefully sooner than later,’’ Steichen said of when Brents might be cleared.
On Rush, he noted, “it’s good to see him out there. With those young guys, as much reps as they can get is going to make ‘em better.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.