INDIANAPOLIS -- Colts general manager Chris Ballard has consistently talked about the same things since he was hired in late January.
Competition. Turnovers. And that there’s more than just Andrew Luck on the roster.
That last part is about to be tested, as the Colts will begin training camp the same way they spent the entire offseason: without seeing Luck take snaps with the first unit.
There’s a possibility that Luck, who is on the physically unable to perform list, won’t play in the preseason, which the Colts kick off with an Aug. 13 visit from the Detroit Lions.
If that proves to be the case, Ballard and the coaching staff will get a good look at where they stand with their roster while Luck recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.
“Look, when you have a player of his caliber that also stands for all the right things off the field, you want to make sure you’re taking care of him and doing it the right way,” Ballard said. “I’ve made this statement many times: I don’t want to make this all about Andrew. Hey, is he an important player on this team? Absolutely he is.
“But there’s going to be 52 other players that are just as important whether we win on Sunday or not. And Andrew is just one of the 53 on the team. Do I understand his significance? Everybody in the league does at the quarterback position. It’s critical that you have that position right and give yourself a chance to win.”
For the majority of Luck’s first five seasons, the only way the Colts had a chance to win was if the quarterback was sharp throughout or pulled off one of his 17 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime.
Ballard wants to put a stop to that.
He wants to assemble a roster that will lighten the load on Luck’s broad shoulders so that the running game, the defense or special teams can be heavy contributors and help the Colts win if the quarterback is not on top of his game. That's why Ballard signed or drafted 13 defensive players this offseason.
Quarterback Scott Tolzien, who started a game for injured Luck last season, will continue to work with the first unit in Luck’s absence. Ballard and the Colts won’t be able to get a full grasp immediately of life without Luck because they also have other key players who will miss the start of training camp with injuries. Starting safeties Clayton Geathers (neck) and Malik Hooker (hamstring) and defensive end Kendall Langford (knee) are also on the PUP list.
The front office and coaching staff will have plenty of time to evaluate where the Colts' roster stands once they start training camp and put the pads on.
“You get a very false sense of who your team is in OTAs because there are no pads on,” Ballard said. “When we get the pads on, I’ll have a better indication of where we’re at. The good thing is the league gives you an opportunity to acquire and fix your problems with other players being cut. A lot of teams, the good ones figure out what’s wrong and then in that first six weeks of the season they’re trying to acquire players that either were cut, were on somebody else’s practice squad or a veteran on the street to help fix those problems.”