INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It’s been described as a second chance, yet another opportunity to prove he belongs at the highest level despite so many self-inflicted screw-ups along the way.
It might be so much more to Chad Kelly.
A last chance? Perhaps.
“I’m thankful for this opportunity,’’ Kelly said Wednesday.
The Colts offered it last week, signing him to a one-year, $570,000 contract. It’s the NFL minimum for a player with Kelly’s experience.
But it’s given him another shot, one there was no guarantee ever would come again after his most recent off-field dustup: being released by the Denver Broncos last October after pleading guilty to second-degree criminal trespassing and being sentenced to one-year supervised probation and 50 hours of community service.
It was the latest fall – probably the hardest – for Mr. Irrelevant of the 2017 draft, the 253rd and final selection. Considering the several other off-field incidents that mar his resume, Kelly realizes he might be running out of “second chances.’’
The Colts might represent his final chance.
“You’re exactly right,’’ Kelly said. “The past six-to-eight months I was lost. I didn’t know what to do. You’ve got a lot of time on your hands . . . ’’
Football, he added, “has been 20 years of my life.’’
Yet he’s done a horrible job of maximizing prior opportunities.
That’s why he spent those last six-to-eight months living in the basement of his parents’ home in Buffalo, N.Y., trying to get his life together. He read the Bible, sought counsel from friends and family, including uncle Jim Kelly, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He insisted he tried to “clear my brain to kind of refocus, to understand, ‘Man, you’re lucky to play this great game.’ It’s 20 years of hard work and it can be gone just like that.’’
Kelly slapped his hands together for emphasis.
“I’ve had two ACLs. I’ve had multiple shakeups,’’ Kelly said. “But you know what? One thing is I’m going to keep on bouncing back. Whether it’s yesterday, tomorrow, whatever the future might hold, I’m going to hit it straight on.’’
That includes, he insisted, altering his lifestyle.
“Definitely. I had to,’’ Kelly said. “I mean, the point in my life, the past is the past. But in order to change your ways you’ve got to cut some things out. You can’t be hanging around the same people. You can’t be doing the things you thought you could get away (with).
“I’m thankful for this opportunity and I know in order to gain the trust of others I’ve gotta show over time this is who I am and this is who I truly am.’’
To that end, he added, the Colts have put a support staff in place “to kind of make me a better person on and off the field.’’
“At the end of the day you’ve got to put in enough work for those guys to trust you because it’s going to take some time of course because there’s been things that have happened in the past,’’ Kelly said. “But I’m up for the challenge to prove to these guys that I’m dedicated to this. I want to do whatever I have to do to be a great teammate, a great leader because that’s what quarterbacks do.’’
At some level, Chad Kelly’s addition to the roster is a byproduct of Frank Reich’s connection with Jim Kelly from their 10-year relationship with the Buffalo Bills. Reich spoke with Jim Kelly before the Colts opted to sign his nephew.
From a personnel standpoint, Kelly’s acquisition should be seen through a long lens. Jacoby Brissett is Andrew Luck’s backup, but Brissett will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
Might the Colts view Kelly as a possible backup QB in 2020? For that to materialize, he’ll have to prove he not only has the physical skills but also the leadership and decision-making traits required of a player at the game’s most influential position.
Kelly isn’t looking that far ahead.
“My goal is to be 1 percent better than the day before,’’ he said, already buying into Reich’s mantra. “That’s what it comes down to, man. You can’t really focus on anything else except helping the team win, and that’s trying to do my best each and every day.
“Just by working hard, it will come.’’
So far, Kelly is holding his own on the practice field. While Luck is dealing with a strained calf, he’s sharing the workload with Brissett and Phillip Walker.
“Chad has looked good,’’ Reich said. “He has come in and he’s picked up the system well. From what we saw at the rookie minicamp, he has progressed from there.
“I think Chad shows to have a little bit of knack and some instincts. He has made his share of mistakes, but I think he’s certainly showing that he belongs out there competing.’’
Whether or not Kelly still is around in September and beyond, though, probably hinges on him avoiding that next off-field hiccup. There can’t be another Denver misstep, which he conceded was a humbling experience.
“It definitely was,’’ he said. “To sit at home and see those guys last year out there playing on the football field and going from being the first guy in the building to the last guy out, and now you’re sitting at home not doing anything. You’re on your time. It’s like, ‘Man, this is wild.’
“I’m very thankful for this opportunity.’’
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