INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts already know running back Jonathan Taylor will miss four games.
It's unclear how much longer he could be out. Or whether he'll stay with the Colts.
One day after the 2021 NFL rushing champ landed on the physically unable to perform list following offseason ankle surgery, general manager Chris Ballard did not provide a timetable for Taylor's return and would not talk about any trade offers he received for the 24-year-old All-Pro.
Instead, he'd rather get Taylor back on the field.
“We’ve got to work through it and we’re going to do everything we can to work through it. Look, relationships are repairable.” Ballard said Wednesday. ”We have work to do, we do. We’ve got work to do on the relationship."
Ballard's comments come after ESPN.com reported the Miami Dolphins and Green Bay Packers both expressed interest in acquiring the 2021 All-Pro.
During earlier news conferences Wednesday, Dolphins general manager Chris Greir called the discussions “exploratory " and that no offers were exchanged.
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst wasn't as direct, but inferred he took a similar position.
“First of all, I can’t talk about players on other teams,” Gutekunst said. “We try to be in every conversation. Anytime we have good players available to us, we’d like to make the Green Bay Packers better, and we’ll look at those opportunities.
He added: “We have conversations about players throughout the National Football League, players on our team, with other teams, all the time. People ask about our guys all the time. That’s part of it.”
Taylor's health is one reason teams might be hesitant to meet Indy's trade demands.
The former Wisconsin star initially went on PUP when Indy reported to training camp July 25. He hasn't practiced since last season. By starting the regular season on PUP, Taylor will not be eligible to play until at least Week 5 when Tennessee visits Lucas Oil Stadium.
“As for the decision to put him on PUP, we’re not going to put a guy on the field who’s still complaining about the ankle,” Ballard said. "So what Jonathan will do is rehab his butt off. He still has pain in the ankle.”
The Colts also want to see Taylor playing healthy in new coach Shane Steichen's offense.
Perhaps the bigger question is whether Taylor still wants to play in Indy.
He's been one of the most vocal running backs to complain about how teams value the position. The franchise tag of $10.1 million is the lowest for any position other than punters and kickers.
The result has been an ugly contract dispute as Taylor enters the final year of his rookie deal. Taylor is due to make $4.3 million this season.
“They asked if we would use it (the franchise tag) and I said it’s a tool," Ballard said. "I told Jonathan this: I don’t want say something that’s not true. I don’t want to lead him down a path and then he looks at me and says ‘You’re a liar.' I know it (the relationship) is not the best right now, but I know I’ve never lied to him.”
Still, the situation has only gotten uglier over the past five weeks.
Team owner Jim Irsay and Taylor's agent, Malki Kawa, debated on social media.
Then, with a capacity crowd attending Indy's first night practice of training camp, Irsay called Taylor into his motorhome, parked behind one end zone, for an hour-long meeting. Afterward, Irsay said he remained hopeful Taylor would play and play well this season.
About an hour later, word leaked that Taylor had requested a trade. Irsay then responded by saying he wasn't dealing his top offensive playmaker.
Ballard would rather not make a deal, either.
“It’s a balance between doing the best thing for the player and doing the best thing for the team. At the end of the day, you have a job to do,” Ballard said. "He is a really good player and if someone was going to trade for him, I think he needs to be valued correctly.”
Taylor also left camp twice, once for what Steichen described as an excused absence to tend to a personal matter, as he continued to rehab the ankle. Last week, Taylor was granted permission to find a trade partner but when nothing materialized, Taylor was placed on PUP.
The next twist is anybody's guess.
“I think he’s a really good player, I think he’s a great kid, I think he’s great for the community. I don’t want to give any indication that we don’t want Jonathan Taylor. That's not true,” Ballard said. "I’ve never once made that statement.
“As relationship-oriented as I am, sometimes I let it bleed into it, but sometimes you can disagree and you can still care and love someone."
AP Sports Writers Steve Megargee in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Alanis Thames in Miami Gardens, Florida, also contributed to this report.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl
Michael Marot, The Associated Press