INDIANAPOLIS – Chris Ballard, general manager of the Indianapolis Colts, reiterated that he is a firm believer that everyone should get vaccinated against COVID-19.
In his annual media session before the start of the regular season, Ballard spent a good deal of time responding to players on his team who have not been vaccinated after quarterback Carson Wentz, center Ryan Kelly and receiver Zach Pascal were placed on the reserve / COVID-19 list last Monday, after being in close contact with a staff member who tested positive for the virus.
Wentz, Kelly and Pascal can return to the facility on the sixth day after close contact if they have negative tests and remain asymptomatic. The fact that the three players were listed as close contacts is an indication that they are not vaccinated against the coronavirus, because according to NFL protocols, vaccinated players would be placed on the list only by testing positive. .
“There are consequences for not being vaccinated,” Ballard said. “Do I think everyone should get vaccinated? Absolutely. I support vaccination, (coach) Frank (Reich) supports vaccination. We have a lot of players on the team who support the vaccine. Is it 100 percent effective? No, but it’s a good thing.
“(The vaccine) can prevent you from ending up in the hospital in a critical situation and helps to stop the contagion and those are positive aspects, but for those who decide not to get vaccinated, they understand that they are still part of the team, it is their decision, but they are still part of the team and must take care of the team, “he added.
The Colts have had one of the lowest percentages of vaccinated players in the NFL. Ballard declined to say what percentage the team is currently in after reducing the roster to 53 players. Several elements, including Wentz, have declined to say whether they are vaccinated or why they have chosen not to.
“I can bang my head against the wall, I can go (with the players) and say all kinds of things to them and yell, but that’s not how we work. I believe in our players, I believe in their ideals and I will support them, “said Ballard. “We will continue working on vaccines. It is not about educating them, but they understand that they must take care of the protocols and that they have to adhere to them and we will do the best we can in that regard ”.
The Colts have been hit hard with players placed on the reserve / COVID-19 list since the start of training camp. Guard Quinton Nelson was removed last Monday after he was in close contact with someone who tested positive. Tackle Eric Fisher, who is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, was put on the line on Aug. 26. Cornerback TJ Carrie, offensive lineman Julien Davenport, defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad and cornerback Xavier Rhodes have been on the list. Reich and defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus tested positive at different times during training camp.
Like any team in the league, the Colts will have to adjust to the moment if a player is forced to lose time by the pandemic. No player will come under more scrutiny than Wentz, who the Colts acquired from Philadelphia in the offseason for his unvaccinated status.
Wentz is coming off a season in which he lost his starting job with the Eagles and has participated in only five practices since the start of training camp for left foot surgery on Aug. 2.
“(Carson) has worked hard, he has been a good partner. When the foot thing happened, I could tell his frustration, but I also saw something else in him, like he’s saying, ‘I’m going to play, (let’s get this bone out) and let’s work.’ That’s good, ”Ballard said.
One player who won’t be back anytime soon is catcher TY Hilton, who recently underwent surgery to repair a disc problem. The Colts plan to put him on injured reserve, which means he will lose at least the first three of the regular season.
Hilton aggravated the injury in practice on Aug. 25.
Hilton, 31, has been the Colts’ top receiver in his nine seasons with the team, which include five seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards.