INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Jabaal Sheard’s pass-rush prowess played a major role in the Indianapolis Colts snatching him off the veteran free-agent market.
His championship pedigree is a bonus, but one that shouldn’t be casually dismissed.
After spending the first four NFL seasons in that wasteland known as Cleveland, Sheard relocated to the other end of the success landscape during the 2015 offseason. That would be Foxborough, Mass., home of the New England Patriots.
The last two seasons revealed to Sheard the other side of the NFL, where work and production often are rewarded with playoff exposure. He was a key contributor as the Patriots reached the AFC Championship Game both seasons, and won Super Bowl LI in February in a rousing comeback against the Atlanta Falcons.
Sheard appeared in five playoff games with the Patriots, and was on the field for nearly 60 percent of their defensive snaps. In the dramatic 34-28 Super Bowl overtime win over the Falcons, he contributed two tackles and aided on a sack of Matt Ryan.
After signing a three-year, $25.5 million contract with the Colts, he’s intent on helping return them to the postseason.
“There’s no better feeling than actually being in the playoffs, being in the Super Bowl, being in the AFC Championship,’’ Sheard said Tuesday in a conference call. “That’s the best feeling ever.
“You look for that feeling every year. Going into football, that’s what you look for. You want that feeling again. There’s no more motivation needed than wanting to go to the playoffs.’’
The Colts are in serious reboot mode after consecutive 8-8 finishes that saw them miss the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1997-98. The heaviest renovation has been with a defense that a year ago ranked 31st in yards allowed and 22nd in scoring.
Sheard met with general manager Chris Ballard, coach Chuck Pagano and others last week, and their message was clear and met reception ears.
“Just guys that are hungry to win and just want to do whatever it takes to get a team on track to win,’’ he said. “The message was we’re going to work. We’re going to work to get better.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes to win around here. That’s something you want to hear coming in.’’
As he considered his free-agent options, Sheard sought the counsel of two former Cleveland Browns teammates: D’Qwell Jackson and Mike Adams.
“Those guys had nothing but great feedback,’’ he said, “just telling me how the program is moving and coaches are going to do everything to get the organization back on track.
“What more could you need to hear?’’
Sheard was reminded that Jackson and Adams have been casualties in the retooling of the defense. Jackson was cut and Adams not re-signed.
“It’s part of football,’’ he said. “Guys come and go.’’
Sheard considers himself a complete outside linebacker: able to exert pressure off the edge, hold up against the run and drop into coverage.
“Whatever they ask of me, I just want to do my job and help where I can,’’ he said.
For now, the 6-3, 265-pounder represents the Colts’ primarily pass-rush threat.
Sheard has generated 36 sacks in 89 games and has had at least 5 in five of his six seasons. He’s had 13 the past two years with the Patriots.
“I just look to do my job, man, and help where I can,’’ he said.