INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – First, Mike Mitchell had to come to grips with the financial realities of his situation.
The veteran safety had drawn interest from several teams after the Pittsburgh Steelers cut him – and his $5 million base salary – in March. But no one backed up the curiosity with the appropriate currency.
“I don’t think anyone anticipated the safety market kind of plummeting like it did,’’ Mitchell said Wednesday. “A little bit of that is you get used to making a certain amount of money and the offers aren’t that.’’
Early on, he was reminded of advice offered from his dad.
“(He) always says, ‘Anything you do well, you don’t do for cheap,’’’ Mitchell said.
But at some point, he added, “you kind of had to remove money from the situation. Once you remove money from the situation, it really became about fit and this was the first opportunity that we got where we got an offer and it’s the right situation.’’
General manager Chris Ballard had been in contact with Mitchell’s agent for over a month, and finally was spurred to offer a one-year contract at the veteran’s minimum — $915,000, which is $645,882 when prorated over the remainder of the season – when injuries ravaged his safeties room.
Mitchell went through his first practice Wednesday, but the Colts’ top three safeties did not: Clayton Geathers (neck/concussion), Malik Hooker (back) and Matthias Farley (shoulder/wrist/groin).
Coach Frank Reich revealed the team still is trying to determine the severity of Geathers’ neck injury. It occurred in last Thursday’s loss at New England when he and Patriots running back Sony Michel shared a violent helmet-to-helmet collision.
“Any time you get into the neck injury thing,’’ Reich said, “that’s why you’ve got to take every precaution and look at it and consider everything.
“That’s what we’re in the process of doing, to see where it falls in that continuum. It’s a real long continuum and a lot of it is fine and you can continue to play with it. Then there gets to the point where you’ve got to look at all of that when it comes to the severity of an injury.’’
Initially, Geathers’ situation was reminiscent of injuries he sustained against the Tennessee Titans in week 14 of the 2016 season. A collision with running back DeMarco Murray resulted in a concussion and a disc injury that would require surgery.
With the status of Geathers, Hooker and Farley uncertain for Sunday’s road test against the New York Jets, Mitchell probably will be asked get up to speed as quickly as possible.
Further heightening the need for Mitchell to be ready to play sooner rather that later? Backup safeties George Odom and Corey Moore have contributed almost exclusively on special teams. Each saw his first action on defense against New England, and that consisted of nine snaps for Odom and one for Moore.
“Our system is simple,’’ Reich said. “He’s a vet. He’s been around the block a few times. Yeah, I think he could handle it easily.’’
Mitchell, 31, has appeared in 137 games in nine seasons, 83 as a starter. He signed a five-year, $25 million free-agent contract with Pittsburgh during the 2014 offseason, and would miss only four of 64 starts.
While waiting for a call from a team offering the right opportunity, Mitchell worked out in South Florida with noted trainer Pete Bommarito. His workout regimen included heavy doses of boxing.
“I was doing that at night,’’ Mitchell said. “My cardio, I feel like is where it needs to be.’’
Getting into football shape, though, is another matter.
“Obviously it’s going to be a lot different,’’ he said. “You can simulate training with a weight vest, but it’s not like carrying a helmet and shoulder pads and having the actual physical contact of a confrontation of hitting someone.
“I’m sure my body will adapt to that . . . I’ve been doing for a while. Hopefully it doesn’t take too long.’’
Mitchell believes his assimilation into coordinator Matt Eberflus’ system will be eased by the carryover from the Cover-2 tendencies used by Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh and the similarities to the scheme used by Ron Rivera in Carolina. Mitchell started 14 games for the Panthers in 2013 and generated a career-high four interceptions, 72 tackles and two forced fumbles.
If nothing else, Mitchell already looked at home Wednesday. He was decked out in Colts’ blue, including a blue knit hat.
“It’s actually my high school colors,’’ he said, “so I like them a lot.’’
The last few days, he added, have been “business as usual, which is nice. It’s nice to be back having a place to work and prepare. It’s nice looking at a playbook last night and going through meetings.
“These are all things I love doing, so it was nice to get back to it.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.