INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – While amassing the mountain of stats and Pro Bowl appearances and extending his Ironman streak, Philip Rivers’ motivation always was simple.
I just wanna be one of the guys.
As he embarks on the next phase of his decorated NFL career, Rivers will have to fend off the skeptics who wonder if, at 38 and after 16 seasons with the Chargers, he still can play at a high level. More important to the Indianapolis Colts, can he play at a level commensurate to the one-year, $25 million contract Chris Ballard extended?
But Rivers’ core principle won’t change one iota. He still just wants to be one of the guys.
“I always first wanted to be a great teammate,’’ he said during a Sunday conference call. “I want to come in here and earn my teammates’ trust and respect.’’
However, that will be delayed as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced so many facets of the world to hit the pause button. That obviously includes the sports world in general and the NFL in particular.
While it’s well down the list of priorities considering what’s going on globally, NFL offseason conditioning programs that open in mid-April and run through mid-June have been postponed indefinitely.
It’s anyone’s guess when players will be allowed to report. No one should be surprised if it coincides with the start of training camp in late July. And no one knows if even that’s a possibility.
Whenever players are allowed to report, Rivers’ overriding priority will be connecting with his new teammates.
When the NFL gives the go-ahead for teams to have remote access to their players, Rivers expects coach Frank Reich, offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni and quarterbacks coach Marcus Brady to provide “video conferencing or whatever it is we put into place so we can communicate.
“I want to step in there when we get there day 1 and the guys in the huddle feel like I have been there more. I hope they don’t feel like it’s my first day.’’
As much as this uncharted territory allows, Rivers is committed to creating an immediate connection with his teammates.
“Whether we can get together or not, I don’t know,’’ he said. “But communicate and . . . build a friendship, build a relationship. I think that camaraderie is huge. My favorite part of this game is being a teammate and I really try to focus on not losing that as I’ve gotten older and there are 22, 21, 23, 24 and 25-year olds in that locker room.
“I know it’s a young team with the Colts as well for the most part. I love being a teammate. I want to be one of the guys. That’s important to me for them to know that right off the bat.’’
It’s important for Rivers to be seen and accepted as the leader throughout the roster, and in the quarterbacks room.
He had yet to talk with Jacoby Brissett when his contract became official Sunday. The Colts didn’t invest so heavily in him to come in and compete with Brissett for the starting job, so there might be a few awkward moments.
“I have given it a thought,’’ Rivers admitted, “but I certainly want it to be taken and received in the right way, however that conversation does come about. I have a lot of respect for Jacoby, obviously the way he handled everything last year, kind of the whole thing going down with the change there.’’
That was a reference to Andrew Luck retiring Aug. 24 and Brissett’s role dramatically changing from backup to starter.
“I’ve never heard a negative thing about Jacoby, from being a great teammate, being a good leader, being one of the guys in the locker room and all those things,’’ Rivers said. “Obviously an N.C. State guy, so we have that in common.
“I don’t know him real well, other than ‘Hello’ when we’ve played them. But I’ve always been thankful for our quarterback room and how the dynamic has always been. We’ve always competed like crazy but pulled for another and I don’t anticipate it being any different.’’
The quarterbacks room
Not surprisingly, the composition of the room has changed. Rivers’ arrival led to the release of veteran Brian Hoyer. The latter move left the team with roughly $3 million in dead money against the salary cap to account for Hoyer.
That leaves a depth chart of Rivers, Brissett and Chad Kelly. And that group could expand when/if Ballard selects a quarterback in the draft.
In terms of the salary cap, that’s a combined active QB budget of $47 million: Rivers ($25 million), Brissett ($21.375 million) and Kelly ($750,000).
The total actually is higher. Luck’s retirement adds $6.4 million in dead money. Lump that with Hoyer’s residual, and the QB budget bounces to roughly $57 million.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.