Bill Polian sat down with JMV of 1070 the Fan, Indianapolis’ ESPN radio affiliate, for an insightful interview that is worth a listen. I took the time to transcribe the interview in its entirety and will share the most interesting parts of the interview after the jump.
JMV – You look at the move from Terre Haute to Anderson. Everything going as smoothly as expected to this point?
BP – It’s actually going a little more smoothly than we expected but there have been massive changes to this campus. Obviously the building we’re sitting behind right now, the Kardatzke Wellness Center is a brand new facility which houses most of our operation.
We’ve put in two brand new fields, and the university has put in field turf and lights in the stadium, along with their refurnished dormitories. So, it is a completely different facility than the one we left 12 years ago.
JMV – It’s nice to see, as you come in, from the local folks with the football team around. Nearly every business window, nearly every restaurant has a lot of Colts stuff up. It’s cool to see that.
BP – It is and if the crowds this morning are any indication we are going to have a record number of people come to camp, and that’s a good thing. The more fans, and particularly young fans who can reach out and touch the team, who don’t typically get the opportunity to see them up close in person at Lucas Oil Stadium, the better we are.
JMV – Talk about the better [rookie] system too because we have been on in the past with one another and you have talked about what we need to see down the road here, and what is to avoid some kind of work stoppage, and what is of the betterment of the NFL on both sides . For the future, what might that be?
BP – Well certainly one of the issues that is going to get a lot of airing, and I have to be careful here because we are not supposed to speak about it incorrectly. The commissioner, if you get ahold of him on Saturday, probably will have more to say about this and that’s the correct way to do it, but we need to change the rookie system.
To have, for example, Sam Bradford paid $50 million in guaranteed money for never having taken a snap in the National Football League is just wrong. That money should go to veteran players who’ve earned it in the National Football League. That’s a very stark example but it exists, it’s there, and it needs to be changed.
I don’t think many people, other than those such as agents who have a vested interest in the present system, would argue that.
JMV – Dealing with the uncapped year, we talked about this last year and you said “it’s coming and its going to be a big issue,” and certainly from the talk you hear around the league it has been. How tough is this issue overall, to handle for you, and your organization.
BP – Well, it’s difficult. The Jerry Hughes negotiations are an example. There are unique rules in the uncapped year that apply to the rookie signing pool and as a result that contract is much more complex, much more difficult to craft than it would be otherwise. That is part of the yin and yang of the uncapped year.
Conversely, players who thought that they were going to be free after four years are free after six in the uncapped year, so it cuts both ways. It was designed to do that, it was designed to drive both parties to the bargaining table.
The parties are at the table, I have no idea what progress, if any, is being made. The fact is that there is a unique set of rules, everything is more difficult, but we will get through it. In large measure, I would say that we are about 80% through it right now.
JMV – Why is it rare that this team and you, as with what we see with other teams that have to deal with at this time significant holding out of players. Not so much with what you had to go through in minicamp in mind but why does this team get past this? Is it player-personnel relationship or what is it? The overall plan that you guys put forth?
BP – Well, I think two things. Number one, the players and the agents recognize that we have a plan, and that we’re very consistent in sticking to the plan. The vast majority of our players play out their contracts, that’s our philosophy.
It starts with the idea that when we sign a player to a contract, we say what we mean and we mean what we say. We don’t and we have not done a lot of machinations with the salary cap, we have not done things with the salary cap only in mind. We have tried to do it with good sound business planning.
Every once in awhile you will run across a player and an agent that feels that he’s played out the value of his contract or that he is worth more than what he is being paid, but bottom line is we try to build those contract with fairness in mind and even agents of players who would like new deals will be the first to tell you I think, if they were completely honest, that hey, the Colts pay fairly in the first instance. We have never tried to get a discount, if you will.
We have always paid the market value and conversely our position is, then having paid the market value, even though the market may change down the road, we expect that the player will play out his contract. We have been consistent, the agents recognize that, I think the players recognize that, and so we have been in a situation where we have largely escaped that. Now there is a lot of luck involved in that too, there’s no question about that.
JMV – Offensively, talk a little bit about Anthony Gonzalez. We haven’t seen him for awhile. We’ll talk offensively about Gonzalez and defensively about Bob Sanders because we haven’t seen him either. What is your expectation for both this year?
BP – Well, our expectation is really good. I think it is appropriate to say that the so called rumor, or that unsubstantiated charge that Bob’s rehabilitation had hit a rough spot and that he wasn’t going to be ready, etc. etc… was proven wrong this morning. If you saw him flying around, he was the same old Bob.
Let’s hope that he stays that way, but the rehabilitation is 100% on schedule, it was on schedule, there was nothing to the charge that he had hit a rough spot or had fallen behind, or that we were worried about him. I don’t know where that came from, certainly not someone from our organization.
I think that we are now in the process of working through how we are going to play them in the pre-season – to make sure that we get them enough reps to be healthy and to be sharp but not to expose them to unnecessary risk. We all know that the way he plays, the ferocity with which he plays, the explosiveness with which he plays, leads to him being dinged. I mean, there is no two ways about that.
The less we can expose him in the pre-season, with the idea that we need to get him back and flowing 100% into the system, that is an issue we will deal with in the next few days. Everything is on schedule, we’re thrilled to have him back, and certainly he is a difference-maker, there is no two ways about that.
JMV – Deshea Townsend, what does he bring to the table?
BP – Experience. Kevin Thomas’ injury robbed us of some important depth there, so Deshea Townsend brings experience, he brings tremendous work ethic, he is a wonderful person, solid citizen.
I failed to mention the Steelers when talking about philosophy and continuity. They are probably the people we model ourselves most closely after, and he is a Steeler, which is probably the highest accolade you can pay to a player in our eyes.
He is going to bring class, a winning attitude, discipline, and certainly talent to the position [CB]. In terms of the overall defensive backfield, we think Deshea adds a veteran there that really will be helpful for us and we think we’ve solved the depth problem with that.
Obviously as the preseason goes on we will uncover another Jacob Lacey, we always do, so somebody will emerge from that pack, I just don’t know who it is going to be right now.
JMV – Since it has been so long since I have talked with you, we haven’t chatted about the possibility of 18 games in the regular season. I’ve got to get your thoughts on that.
BP – I think it is a fait accompli (presumably irreversible deed or fact]. I think it is something that the owners feel is an idea whose time has come.
There are issues that have to be dealt with, number one injuries. That can be dealt with by expanding the active roster or expanding the practice squad, and I am open to discussion on both of those subjects.
The competition committee, which I’m a member, is going to have a conference call next week, I believe, and we are going to discuss a lot of those issues. I think it could go either way.
The issue of how many players you dress on Sunday, in an 18-game season, to me is a critical issue. I think the fewer we dress, the better off we will be. The more you dress, the more specialization you will get, and then when those specialists invariably get hurt, as they will, over the last month of January and February. If you are not involved with packages, if you have bona fide every down football players as backups, no matter what their skill level, I think you’re probably better off in the long run. I know there are a number of people around the league who feel that way, I know there are people who don’t, so it will be an interesting discussion.
The key is not the 18 games, that’s a given. I think it is fair to say that there is a great deal of sentiment for continuing to begin the season the Sunday following Labor Day, which would put the Super Bowl on President’s Day weekend. I think that is probably an issue that is pretty well decided.
The question then is, what do we do with the off-season? What do we do with training camp to develop young players with only two preseason games? What do we do with the roster? How do we withstand the inevitable injuries over the course of an 18-game season? Those questions have yet to be answered, and I’m looking forward to the Competition Committee discussions in order to weigh in on it.