INDIANAPOLIS – Rodney McLeod had just signed his free-agent contract with the Indianapolis Colts and was headed back to the airport.
The veteran safety is prepared for the next phase of his decorated NFL career, even if he’s unclear the direction it takes him.
He might be the starting sidekick to strong safety Khari Willis when the Colts open their bounce-back season in September. McLeod, 31, has started 123 games in 10 seasons – the majority at free safety – and was one of the Philadelphia Eagles’ starting safeties when they whipped New England 41-33 in Super Bowl LII after the 2017 season.
Or he might be the third wheel on the backend of Gus Bradley’s defense if Julian Blackmon, who suffered a season-ending torn Achilles in week 6 of 2021, has completed his rehabilitation in time for the opener.
“There hasn’t been any conversation about my role,” McLeod said Thursday afternoon. “I’m just really here to add value to what is already in existence here: a great defense, a great group of defensive backs, a great group of safeties as well.”
“I’m just excited to be able to add my own skillsets, abilities and leadership to this room and to this defense,” he added. “So, whatever [Bradley] feels is best for the team, that’s what I’m here to do.”
First things first, and that’s getting a crash course on Bradley and his defensive scheme. McLeod conceded he knows “very little” about the defense other than it was instrumental in the success Seattle enjoyed when Bradley was the Seahawks’ coordinator from 2009 to 2012.
Players report to town for the start of offseason workouts Monday.
“It will be interesting just to see and hear more about the scheme and how I’ll be utilized within the defense as well as other players,” McLeod said.
McLeod shouldn’t be looked on as a long-time answer at safety, but should offer immediate impact.
The resume is full and impressive: 139 games and 123 starts, at least 13 starts in eight of 10 seasons; 593 tackles, 16 interceptions, 52 passes defensed and 11 forced fumbles.
Just as important is the leadership he brings. That’s not a knock on Willis or Blackmon, but each still is in the early stages of his career.
“I feel as if my experience is key,” McLeod said. “My leadership and just my personality, the way I approach the game, the way my passion kind of shows.”
“Like I said, the room is already very talented,” he added. “I’m just now an added piece of that and looking forward to building with this new group of guys and getting to work very soon.”
McLeod was part of four Eagles teams that reached the postseason, and he said he anticipates similar success.
“All you can do is put your best foot forward and just look ahead,” he said. “Not looking in the past and just focusing on right now and how I can be an asset to this team and how we can go out there and win games… not only games in the regular season, but playoffs and ultimately championships.”
In a sidenote, McLeod is reunited with Frank Reich, who was the Eagles’ offensive coordinator in 2016-17.
“A great coach,” he said. “I think that was obvious during his short time in Philly and being a huge reason on why we were able to win a title in that two-year span. That’s allowed him to be a head coach and lead a group of men.”
“Frank’s a very great coach. He’s a players’ coach,” he added. “He gets it, understands it from his time in the game and I’m glad that we’re able to reconnect how.”
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.