Head Coach Frank Reich
“Okay, just to begin with a message directly to Colts fans and supporters – it’s not often that we share intimate details of a team meeting, but today is going to be one of those rare exceptions. This morning at our team meeting, Chris Ballard and myself spoke to the team about the events of the last few days. I just thought it was a good moment. I thought it was a good moment. Chris had a lot of amazing things to say. Ultimately, sometimes as a team what we talk about is a theme or a word that helps us make sense of things. It helps put categories for things and put context in. This morning we talked about the word ‘paradox.’ So a paradox is a statement in which it seems that if one part of it is true, the other part cannot be true. For example, everyone makes a unique contribution on this team, yet everyone is replaceable. We can deeply love, respect and care for each individual, yet the team must come first. Therefore when it came to Andrew’s (Luck) retirement, that word paradox kind of helps me. It can help us make sense of what’s going on. On one hand, we can respect and honor the player and the teammate that Andrew is and was, but at the same time we can share an excitement and an enthusiasm about the team that we have going forward and the journey ahead of us. Ultimately it isn’t how good any one player is, it’s not. It’s about how good we are as a team. Someone asked me a question the other day, ‘Is there any sense that you felt like Andrew is letting down the team?’ The answer was an emphatic, ‘No.’ Why is that? Well, Colts fans know that we use a metaphor around here of climbing Mount Everest to depict the journey of a regular season and the quest to get to the top and win a world championship. Anyone who has made that climb knows that it requires a total commitment of the heart, a complete and total commitment of the heart. When Andrew spoke to us the other day, he spoke of how the cycle of injury, pain and rehab, injury, pain and rehab, injury, pain and rehab over four years had taken its toll. It had essentially sucked the passion, the joy, the fun out of football. So Andrew did the right thing. He did the right thing for himself and he did the right thing for the team knowing the requirement and the commitment that’s needed for the journey ahead. He did the courageous thing and he did the honorable thing. One last thing, we all know as far as Andrew is concerned – make no mistake about it, we know this guy isn’t done climbing mountains. He’s very talented. This is just a new beginning and a new chapter for him. I mean can you imagine if he inspired millions of kids to learn how to read? How would that mountain be to climb? But also, let me assure Colts fans of this – this team is not done climbing. In fact, we are just getting ready. We are just getting started and we can’t wait. I just feel like Chris and his staff have done an unbelievable job of assembling a team of players that this locker room is special. There is a character quality and a passion for this game and for this city and what the horseshoe represents that is special. We believe that our players will rise to that challenge and that occasion. We are ready for the journey ahead. We believe we have the formula of what it takes to have a successful journey. We’ve got the right makeup. We’ve got the right locker room. Chris talked a lot about that this morning with the team about what it takes to get into that locker room. We have the talent. This is a very talented football team in all three phases. We have a vision. Colts fans know what our vision is – we are all about the process, get one percent better every day and go 1-0 every week. Then we have the support of Colts Nation. There are going to be challenges along the way. We know that for sure. That is what climbing Mount Everest is all about. There is nothing easy about it, not one thing easy about it. But I can’t help but think back to an old saying that an old coach of mine used to say all the time and that’s this, ‘There is no place I would rather be than right here, right now.’”
How do you separate the jarring nature of this weekend and the fact that you have a game in two weeks? There will be that human reaction of losing a player and a friend.
“It is a range of emotions. That’s the paradox. That’s the paradox. We are losing a great player and a great teammate. The reality is in the next week there are going to be other teammates that are lost. Andrew is special in his own way, but make no mistake about it, there are a lot of guys who are going to depart from this building and that’s going to hurt. There are going to be a lot of friendships that will continue in other ways, but that’s part of the business of football that you have to embrace.”
You said that you and Jacoby Brissett needed some time to digest what happened. Have you digested it and have you guys talked?
“Yeah, I believe we both digested. We have not had that deep-down heart-to-heart talk about the upcoming season just yet. We will do that at the right time probably here in the next day or two.”
What is your lasting takeaway from what happened in Philadelphia with the quarterback situation? What lessons can you take away or apply?
“Very specific lesson – we talked about it today in the team meeting. At the end of the day what propels us is belief in one another and conviction about what we are doing. We have that on this team. There is a closeness in this locker room. Those of you that are in here all the time I believe know that to be true and I believe that’s what will happen.”
How much differently will you script your playbook with Jacoby Brissett instead of Andrew Luck?
“Yeah, it’s a great question and I think that sometimes that gets overplayed. I might of mentioned this before – I am not sure – I had the experience of when I backed up Jim Kelly, we’re running the K-Gun offense and everybody thought when Jim got hurt, that we would have to go to plan-b offense for me because I wasn’t as talented as him. But that’s not how it rolled and that’s not how we’ll roll. The same thing when Carson Wentz got hurt and Nick Foles came in. Completely different quarterbacks in many respects, same offense but it’s just interpreted in a slightly different way. We will accentuate some of Jacoby’s strengths and some of our team strengths in a different way, but the playbook won’t change.”
Does you having to come in when you were a backup in a playoff setting help you with how you handled Nick Foles a couple years ago and now Jacoby Brissett?
“Yeah, I think it helps inform me, there is no doubt. We all have to play to our own experiences and our own strengths. I think that helps me. But at the same time, I don’t want to overplay it. It’s about the team. I am one person in that wheel and every player in that locker room – it ultimately comes down to the locker room. It ultimately comes down to their belief in each other, in every player on that offense, on that defense and our special teams units.”
What is the biggest jump you have seen in Jacoby Brissett from last year to essentially being a starter?
“In a strange way since Andrew did not take any reps this whole offseason – I just for fun had the guys the other day say, ‘Hey, how many reps has Jacoby gotten this offseason with the first team?’ It was about 1,200 reps. That’s more than a season’s worth of plays that he has had with the first team here in practice counting OTAs and training camp. That’s not even counting what we did in Phase II. But you can just feel his presence in the huddle on the field, the confidence that he has had and the chemistry with the receivers. We all know that Andrew and T.Y. (Hilton) had a very unique chemistry and connection. For example, I can feel that developing with Jacoby and T.Y. You can feel that developing with Jacoby and (Eric) Ebron, (Devin) Funchess and the likes. So that has been very important that Jacoby has got all those reps.”
On Saturday night, you knew what was going to happen but a lot of people did not. What was the response in the locker room when Andrew Luck told the team?
“It was hard. I mean it was hard. Chris, I can’t even say enough about how Chris Ballard handled everything. As you know, it didn’t break the way it was supposed to break and it’s just part of this industry, whatever. But the players handled it well. A couple of players knew. Andrew had told a couple of key guys – the guys who he had been with the longest knew – but not many because the plan was for Andrew to talk after the game to the team and then to have the press conference the next day. That’s just not the way it played out.”
Do you think Chad Kelly has done enough to prove that he can be a backup in this league again?
“Chad (Kelly) has played well. He has carried himself well. He has done everything right. That will be an evaluation that Chris and I will make at the right time, but he has done well.”
What is your comfort level with Phillip Walker as Jacoby Brissett’s backup if something were to happen?
“Yeah, those are all really good things to consider – that we are considering very strongly. Phil (Walker) has been here for a while so we have a lot of belief and confidence in Phillip. He knows our offense. He knows this locker room. Those are going to be the decisions that we have to make in the next week to 10 days.”
So it is still an active conversation?
“Still an active conversation, yes.”
What went into Chad Kelly starting on Saturday?
“Yeah, not much other than we had kind of planned it – it just turned out that he got the start. But Phil had went first in the rotation in the first two preseason games. As you guys know, originally I was thinking Jacoby would play a little bit in that third game. But we had already planned that Chad would come in second because Phil went in second in the previous two games. So when Jacoby didn’t play, we just bumped it up.”
What are the strengths that you would accentuate in Jacoby Brissett’s game?
“He’s got great functional play strength. In the pocket he is hard to bring down. He can extend plays and you have to do that a lot in this league. When somebody rushes by you and a big defensive lineman puts his hands on you, he is not phased by it. He can keep his eyes down the field. He’s got this toughness about him. I think Jacoby as a passer was always good, and has just gotten better. He has worked very hard at that. He worked very hard at his footwork, worked very hard at little subtle mechanic changes. He has just been committed to working on his body. I think physically he has become even a better athlete. Then his mastery of the offense and all these 1,200 reps that he has got plus the year before when he got all those reps in the offseason. Previously as a backup quarterback, this guy has gotten more work than probably any backup could get and I think that has all helped prepare him for this time.”
When you look at the team and roster, would you say this is about as good of a situation as it could be? Would you sort of embrace that?
“Absolutely, starting with the offensive line. You know how Chris (Ballard) and I feel about it. That is where it all starts – up-front on both sides of the ball. And you know how we feel about Jacoby. I mean yes, he has been Andrew’s backup – I’ve made known, and Chris the same way, from day one I came in and watched all of Jacoby’s film, get to meet him, get to know him and in my mind I say this guy is a top-20 quarterback. This guy is a legit starter in the league. Kudos to Chris for making that move a couple years ago and who would’ve known it would’ve ever came to this? I’m sure glad we’ve got him now.”
What have you observed of Jacoby Brissett behind the scenes?
“This guy is all in, and I know that’s what’s required of the positon, but he just does it the right way. He’s not just checking off boxes. He’s got the right mindset. He’s just a pro. He’s a pro. He’s a class act. He’s a great leader. I’m just excited for him.”
What was the entire night on Saturday for you? You worked really closely with Andrew Luck.
“It was hard. I remember getting a call from him the previous offseason before he had never thrown a football. We had a conversation one time and I said, ‘Well, if you ever want to throw a football, you know my cell.’ I will remember stuff like this. I will remember him calling me saying, ‘I’m going to be at the complex tomorrow. Let’s throw a football.’ And that being the first football that he threw after that whole shoulder ordeal. Those are the kind of things I think as a coach that are special that you remember. The quarterback meeting room with Nick (Sirianni) and Marcus (Brady) and Jacoby (Brissett) and Phil (Walker) was a really unique room, a special room. The fun, the ball that we talked, the things that we learned – those are all the emotions that go through your mind.”
Twenty years ago, the Rams lost a quarterback late and go on to win the Super Bowl. Is that a story that you can share? The younger guys probably don’t remember that.
“Yeah, I think you draw on all of those stories. In fact we talked about a little bit today in the team meeting just acknowledging that in one respect this story is very unique (and) it’s shocking. But in another respect, I don’t want to say it happens all the time, it certainly doesn’t happen all the time – but it’s happened enough whether it be an injury or a retirement where a team loses a great player and yet the team is galvanized and goes on to have a great season and propels that team to their next championship and where they’re headed.”
We saw Kenny Moore II – does he have a thumb issue?
“Yeah, a thumb issue. We’ll evaluate that. Not ready to declare a status on him but hopefully he will be okay.”
Is this period really critical for where the team will go? I would think most players are going to see how people like you and Chris Ballard react.
“I think that’s true, but I also think equally if not more they’re looking to see how the leaders in the locker room react. How the Jacoby Brissett’s and the Justin Houston’s and those guys – how do they react? How do our young leaders – Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard – how do they react? Chris (Ballard) and I talk about that’s the heartbeat of our team. Yeah, Chris and I have the roles that we do and we embrace those and love those roles. But we’re all about that locker room and the leadership there. That’s what’s going to take us where we need to go.”
Have you observed anything from how they’ve reacted?
“Yeah, I feel really good about where we’re at. I feel really good.”
With everything that has happened this past weekend, does it help you play up the position that you guys were in last year?
“Yes. Yes. We’ll go back to the underdog role – us against the world. But those things are fun to talk about and we play off of those. But ultimately what’s deeper than that – I’m going to keep saying it – is get one percent better every day. Just get a little bit better every day. And where we go, we literally take each week in and of itself. Don’t try to get out there too far in front of it. It’s one game at a time. We might lose one or two, but we’re going to take it 1-0 and nothing is going to phase us from that.”
Can you give us a sense of the relationship between Jacoby Brissett and Andrew Luck and how that has evolved?
“Honestly, it’s pretty cool. You talk to any player and at the end of the day they say that’s what’s special about this game. It’s about being in the locker room, the relationships that you develop. To see those two develop the relationship they have and how deep it is. Honestly, two radically different people as far as personality types and maybe off-field interests, but yet in that meeting room how they’re together. How they have genuine love and respect for each other – that’s fun to see.”
What’s the first moment that you really saw the leadership that Chris Ballard was talking about with Jacoby?
“There are many times. Last year, when Andrew was out with the shoulder thing – just how he embraced, how I felt like the team responded to him from day one. Jacoby has this presence about him that it’s just not all about him. He’s in it for the other guys and he genuinely is about bringing out the best in other people. You just feel that. You see that. The guys know that. I could see it instantly. I could see it instantly – seeing him with the guys out on the field. We are in good hands with Jacoby Brissett as our quarterback.”
Quarterback Jacoby Brissett
Obviously this has been a range of emotions for you. What has this roller coaster been like for you?
“It’s been that – a roller coaster of emotions. The main thing is just not being able to see Andrew (Luck) every day and that’s – today was kind of weird walking in and not seeing him. You know that’s the thing to deal with, but ups and downs. It’s on the way up now so that’s all that matters.”
What was your initial reaction when he told you?
“I was shocked, which I’m sure everybody is. Y’all wouldn’t be here if y’all weren’t shocked either. I was shocked and then we had a long conversation. It was just some emotions, obviously going back and forth. When you sit down and you talk to him and you understand his decision. Like I said, it’s one of my good friends so it’s tough, but I’m sure both of us will deal with it.”
Did it seem like he was at peace?
“No question. I was kind of in my emotions, I won’t describe that, but he was like smiling at the end. That’s what helped me gain clarity and understand the situation. Seeing him smile and I wish him the best – he knows that. We’ll talk longer than the days of either of our football careers. But he seemed happy and that’s all that really mattered.”
Throughout this whole summer and spring and you getting all the first-team reps – did you ever think the word retirement was a possibility for him?
“Not a chance, but that’s just the NFL. You never know when it’s your time or somebody else’s time. Day by day and like I said I was shocked.”
On Saturday, Andrew was pretty candid in saying he was jealous of you at first when he came back from the Netherlands and saw you were at quarterback here. Can you explain how your relationship has evolved from that?
“How’d I make him jealous? I’m just kidding (laughing).”
Can you explain how your relationship has evolved from those first interactions or maybe it was a little awkward?
“It was definitely awkward. When I first met Andrew when I first got traded here, I saw a different Andrew when he came back the next year. We’ve had conversations about what we initially thought of each other and then just to see how the relationship has changed and now we kind of talk every day. I never would’ve thought that I would talk to him every day and actually enjoy conversation. That changed drastically when he got back and it’s been a growing relationship ever since. Like I said, I call him a friend that will extend longer than football.”
What brought you guys together?
“Football brought us here (laughs).”
Did you see something in each other, was there some common ground, other than the fact you both played quarterback?
“Well obviously the similarities in playing quarterback and things like that, but it was just the relationship just grew organically and took off from there. We also had different upbringings and that’s what I think drew us closer together because we would talk about each other’s upbringing. And you just see the respect level on both sides – helped form that friendship and that bond.”
At what point did the shock kind of wear off and it’s like, ‘Okay, we gotta go now, the season is starting in a couple weeks now?’
“Once I kind of walked out of the room with him. But it was always prepare like you’re a starter from day one with me. It was more so the shock he wouldn’t be here.”
One thing Chris Ballard mentioned is, ‘We don’t want Jacoby Brissett to be Andrew Luck, we want you to be you.’ So, what do you need to do moving forward?
Is it just be yourself?
“It’s just be myself.”
That’s obviously the mindset, you’re going to do you. You’ve been doing that since you’ve been here. What’s the mentality like to be you and to relay that to the team that’s it’s going to be okay and to move forward?
“Just by coming to work every day, working hard. Things that I hope that I’ve shown throughout my career here or where I’ve been, but just do that every day on a consistent basis. Which I said I try to do. I guess it’s just up from there.”
Was that weird on Saturday for you? You knew something a lot of people around you didn’t.
“I know a lot of secrets that a lot of people don’t know (laughs). But it wasn’t weird. I had already had conversations with Andrew. I was at peace with it and I just wish he could of done it his way. So that sucked as a teammate to see that and feel the reaction that we got from the fans for him. You know that hurt more than anything.”
Did you ever get a sense? You were close to him as a friend and as a teammate. Did you ever get a sense that it was this bad when he talked about the pain the last month? Did you ever get a sense that he was in hell?
“To the point that he would retire? No, but you obviously know a lot, but you don’t know everything about somebody. Like I said, when I had those conversations it helped me get a better understanding.”
Where is your comfort level as far as with the receivers, tight ends and offensive line compared to two years ago when you first came here?
“Way better, I mean it’s not the first week of me being here now. I’ve been here for two years, same system with a lot of the same guys. I think that will help me out and help us out a lot. We’ve gained a relationship, we’ve had those tough conversations. It’s an on-going thing so it’s not like, ‘He’s all that.’ It’s still week after week, day after day that we have the opportunity to get better.”
Will you still be getting in on the defensive celebrations with being a starting quarterback?
“I don’t think so, I think it’ll be hard. But I’ll find a way to get over there.”
Now you have to go talk to Frank (Reich).
“Exactly, but I’ll find a way to get over there (laughing).”
Now that you’ve had the chance to think it through, do you understand why Andrew did what Andrew did?
“Yeah, because it’s Andrew, it’s his decision. As a friend, you want him to be happy, you want him to be at peace, you want him to do want he wants to do and I respect it. Like I said, I wish he did it his way as far as everything else behind scenes, but I know he’s at peace.”
Did you have a reaction when the fans booed him at the end of the game?
“Yeah, it sucked. You don’t want to hear that. Especially a guy like that, who’s done as much as he’s done and what he’s been through even before I got here and talking to him and hearing a lot of those stories. No.”
Do you feel the need to take on more? I know Chris Ballard has already spoken highly of your leadership. More of a vocal leadership role, speak in front of the team, speak in front of the offense?
“No, not at all. We have other great leaders on this team, other good players, other people that will handle their business accordingly and it’s not like I’m trying to be anybody that I’m not.”
As much talk as there was inside and outside the building, when you get back on the field does it feel like business as usual?
“Yeah, no question, because at the end of the day when you’re working, you’re working. You just go on.”
Re: Not having to change what he’s done:
“No, not at all. It’s not like I had to do anything different than I was doing for the last however long it’s been.”
One of your big advocates in your career has been Bill Parcells. Given this change in circumstance for you what, if anything, has he communicated to you in the last couple days?
“Just good luck. We have conversations so much that it’s not like it’s anything different.”
Did he tell you how you should handle it?
Tackle Anthony Castonzo
How shocked were you when you found out that Andrew was retiring on Saturday?
“We had talked about it before. I kind of knew it going into (the game). When it happened, I was shocked at how it happened. The fact that somebody kind of took it on themselves to release it when it was kind of his story to tell was kind of shocking to me. The news itself was not shocking to me.”
Do you understand his reason for stepping down?
“Yeah, absolutely. He said it best, nothing I can say that he hasn’t said. I totally understand.”
Is this something that could potentially galvanize the team even though you are losing one of your key players?
“Yeah. Frank (Reich) was talking about it in the meeting. Obviously we respect Andrew (Luck) and the fact that he leaves it kind of leaves a big hole but it’s next man up. That’s the NFL. That’s how it is regardless of the position. We’ve got a quarterback in Jacoby (Brissett) who we know can get the job done. I think something like that, yeah, can bring us closer together.”
What is Jacoby Brissett like as a leader?
“He just goes and does his job. He likes to have a little bit of fun too, which is always good out on the field. He’s confident, which is kind of the number one thing you look for in a leader. I think he’s going to do a great job.”
Tight End Jack Doyle
Re: His thoughts on Andrew Luck’s retirement:
“Yeah, mixed emotions like a lot of people I’m sure. Sad to not have him in here every day, but also very happy for him to be at peace with it and to have clarity with what he was doing. I’m happy for him and his wife, Nicole.”
Is this just part of football and the way things go? Next man up and turn the page.
“Yeah, we’ve talked about that before whether it’s an injury or whatever it is – a retirement. The league just keeps going. Football just keeps going. That’s the way this league works and everyone knows that – that’s in it or been in it. That’s what we do. We’ll go out and practice today.”
Could you provide some context of what going through injuries year in and year out can do to a person?
“Yeah, it’s hard. Very hard to try to get back out there to know that you can’t help the team when that is really what you want to do. It’s very difficult and it can be a lonely, lonely process. It’s tough and very frustrating.”
Have you talked to him since everything went down on Saturday?
“No, I haven’t talked to him since. I’m kind of letting him calm down a little bit. But before we got to talk.”
Wide Receiver T.Y. Hilton
I know just seeing your tweet yesterday, it was pretty powerful what you had to say about your teammate Andrew Luck. Take us through that and how tough has it been knowing he’s not going to be a part of this team anymore?
“It’s been very tough. You know that’s my guy, that’s my best friend and it’s hurting. Not going to lie, it’s taking a toll on me. But I was able to have that heart to heart with him, that man to man, and we talked. I was cool with the decision. I was cool with it and he’s always going to be with me.”
You describe your relationship with Andrew Luck like riding a bike. How long does it take for you to get to that point with Jacoby Brissett?
“I don’t think it’s going to take long because we had all OTAs and all training camp. So, we’ve much pretty been in the whole time anyways, so it’s just a couple little things here and there and we’ll be fine.”
What’s your message to these guys here? There’s still a lot of talent on this team – give me your take on what you tell these younger guys?
“We’re good. Of course we’re losing a big piece, but Jacoby is ready. He’s been primed and ready for this position. I know we’re all excited and can’t wait for him to go out there. But the young guys, just continue doing what you’ve been doing. Nothing has changed. Of course we lost a big factor, but at the end of the day this team is ready. Chris (Ballard) and Frank (Reich) do a great job with this team that they put together and we can’t wait to show the world.”
Linebacker Darius Leonard
Do you take it upon yourself to be more of a leader now, not only on the field, but in the locker room?
“I will still approach the day – the same thing. Every time I come in here I think about being a leader. With Andrew or without him I’m still going to have the same mindset and I’m going to still come in and try to be the best leader I can.”
When the offense loses a player of that stature, does the defense think it has to do more?
“Like I said, we are still the same motto. We go control what we can control and that is playing one play at a time and getting better each day.”
Did you hear the crowd booing?
“I did. It sucked, especially for a guy who did so much for this organization, so much for this city and so much for the team. Losing him is terrible, but you still do not boo a guy who did so much for this community. You see what he battled against and it showed how tough he is and for him to get booed his last time walking off that field, it definitely sucked not just for him but for the whole Colts organization.”