Colts’ Jonathan Taylor: ‘If somebody wasn’t committed, they wouldn’t be here. Right now, I’m here’

Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor said he’s 100 percent healthy and is committed to being with the team Thursday in his first comments since returning to practice Wednesday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Taylor deflected on any questions concerning his contract. The running back is in the final year of his contract. He requested a trade in July and received permission to seek a trade in August.
  • Taylor did express his desire to be back with the Colts this season, saying, “If somebody wasn’t committed, they wouldn’t be here. Right now, I’m here.”
  • The All-Pro tailback had been on the physically unable to perform list since training camp with an ankle injury.

Taylor timeline

Dec. 17, 2022: Taylor plays just two snaps against the Minnesota Vikings before leaving the Week 15 game after re-aggravating his right ankle injury. That was the last time he participated in a game or live practice.

Jan. 26, 2023: Taylor undergoes right ankle surgery. He’d later call it a “perfect success” in April.

April 19: Taylor says “it wouldn’t be a distraction to me” if he doesn’t receive a contract extension before the season. The Colts have a history of rewarding their top talent with lucrative deals. Colts general manager Chris Ballard was asked in January if it was wise to pay a running back top dollar and he said, “When they’re a special player, it is,” so Taylor probably thought a deal was imminent.

June 14: Taylor, after switching agents, speaks to the media on the last day of veteran minicamp and says it’s on the Colts to get a deal done. “You see why guys request trades,” he says. “They just want to feel valued by not only their coaches, their teammates, but the organization as well.”

July 25: Taylor is added to the reserve/physically unable to perform list at the start of training camp and does not practice.

July 26-27: Colts owner Jim Irsay and Taylor’s agent, Malki Kawa, get into a spat via social media.

July 29: Irsay meets with Taylor on his bus, and after an hour-long talk, Taylor’s trade request becomes public. Irsay would later say he won’t trade Taylor.

Aug. 29: The Colts cut their roster down to 53 players, and Taylor is not one of them. He starts the season on the active/physically unable to perform list and will miss the first four games.

Aug. 30: Ballard meets with the media, reveals that the team allowed Taylor to seek a trade but no deal was struck and adds that “relationships are repairable.”

Wednesday: The Colts open the 21-day return-to-play window for Taylor, and coach Shane Steichen says the 2021 first-team All-Pro has a chance to make his season debut Sunday.

Taylor stands among Colts’ greats

Taylor returned to practice Wednesday and said Thursday his No. 1 goal was to attack the next practice. (Photo: James Boyd / The Athletic)

The Colts have had several star running backs over the years, including a handful of Hall of Famers. None have rushed for more yards in a season than Taylor.

He totaled franchise records of 1,811 yards and 18 rushing TDs en route to the 2021 rushing title and a first-team All-Pro selection. The last Colts running back to be named a first-team All-Pro was Edgerrin James in 1999. James is the only Colts player to rush for more yards through their first three seasons than Taylor. James, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, logged 3,924 yards in three season, while Taylor comes in at 3,841 yards. Despite missing the first four games of this season, Taylor’s career rushing total ranks fourth in the NFL since he was drafted in 2020. His 33 rushing touchdowns ranks third. — Boyd

What they’re saying

Quarterback Anthony Richardson: “I know he’s a great player, and I know I can do some things pretty well. So, just trying to combine those two things. I can only imagine what it’s like (playing with Taylor), but we won’t see until it actually happens. We’ll see and I’m excited.”

Coach Shane Steichen: “When you have an explosive player like him in the backfield that can hit the home runs, obviously you might get heavier boxes obviously with him running the football. Then it leaves some shots down the field depending on how defenses are playing it. But, it definitely adds a huge element to our offense.”

Linebacker Zaire Franklin: “We love JT. We care about him more than a player but as a person. His family, his wife — all of that stuff. So, I mean, it’s deeper than that. Obviously, we know he’s got things going on, but we’re here to support him any way we can.”

Tight end Drew Ogletree: “He’s a top-five back in the league for sure, if not (No. 1). He’s so dynamic in everything that he does. He can catch the ball, he can run the ball and obviously has breakaway speed. Him and AR (Richardson) in backfield is definitely gonna be something dangerous.”

A Taylor metrics refresher

Since it’s been a minute since Taylor has touched the field, let’s take a minute to refresh our memory as to how Taylor performed last season. In terms of Expected Points Added metrics, via TruMedia, Taylor was one of the least potent running backs in the league last year. Here’s a closer look at his 2022 metrics:

  • EPA per target/rush: -0.21 (61st among 64 qualified running backs)
  • EPA per rush: -0.16 (56th)
  • EPA per target: -0.45 (58th)

Now how has Zack Moss filled in during Taylor’s absence? Moss has been in the middle of the pack:

  • EPA per target/rush: -0.06 (27th among 58 qualified running backs)
  • EPA per rush: -0.06 (29th)

It might benefit the Colts to keep Moss going while Taylor works his way back into the lineup. — Holder

Required reading

(Photo: Cooper Neill / Getty Images)

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