INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – After going a couple of places, Clayton Geathers isn’t going anywhere.
“This is home,’’ he said Wednesday. “Everybody welcomed me back. I wanted to be somewhere I was valued.
“This is a good place.’’
It’s the right place after Geathers, an unrestricted free agent, tested the open market before determining there was no place like the only NFL team he has known. He signed a one-year contract – financial terms were not initially known – after visiting Dallas and Tampa Bay earlier this week.
“I just wanted to go through the process and make the best decision for my family,’’ Geathers said. “And Indy is home.’’
The Colts selected Geathers in the fifth round of the 2015 draft, and his staying power is rare from a defensive standpoint. He and Hassan Ridgeway (round 4, 2016) are the only defensive draft picks who pre-date the arrival of general manager Chris Ballard in 2017.
And from a trivia standpoint, Geathers is the first Colts’ defensive draft pick to sign a second contract since Fili Moala, a second-round pick in 2009.
“I’m just glad to be back,’’ he said.
On more than one occasion, Geathers gushed over returning to what has been a tight locker room.
“Special,’’ he insisted. “That’s another reason I didn’t want to leave: this locker room.’’
He’s also looking forward to being part of Matt Eberflus’ developing defense. It finished 11th in the NFL in total yards and 10th in fewest points last season, significant improvements over 2017 (30th in both categories).
The defense was “good’’ last season, insisted Geathers. “Now it’s time to be great. Now it’s time to take that next step.’’
Ballard has never hidden his affinity for Geathers, and his wish to re-sign him if it worked for both sides. He singled out several players following the Colts’ second-round playoff loss at Kansas City, including Geathers.
“I got emotional with Clayton after the game because I love him. I do,’’ Ballard said. “I love everything Clayton Geathers stands for. I watched a guy every week fight for his tail off to get ready to play.’’
That’s been the issue with Geathers: his ability to stay on the field with his aggressive, physical style. He appeared in 15 games as a rookie, but has missed 22 of a possible 48 games the last three seasons with a variety of injuries. The most serious was a disc injury in 2016 that required surgery and limited him to five games in 2017.
Geathers started 12 games last season while dealing with a knee issue. He suffered a concussion and neck injury in the Colts’ week 5 loss at New England.
“It was tough,’’ he said. “I can’t lie about that, it was definitely tough. But just something that was built in me. It’s a mindset. I wanted to be out there with my guys. I wanted to be out there for my guys, playing.
“That’s just who I am.’’
The Colts have envisioned Geathers and Malik Hooker, the 2017 first-round draft pick, forming a solid safety tandem, but injuries have gotten in the way. They’ve been together for just 10 of 32 regular-season games.
His objective now that he’s working under what amounts to a one-year, prove-it deal?
“Personally, just want to stay on the field,’’ he said. “Be healthy and prove all the doubters wrong.’’
Are the doubters people who question your skills, or your ability to stay on the field?
“Everything,’’ Geathers said. “Mindset’s different. It’s different now.”
“It’s different,’’ he replied. “We’ll see.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.
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