Colts RB Jonathan Taylor speaks for first time since trade request, mum on future in Indianapolis

Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor spoke to reporters on Thursday for the first time since his offseason contract squabble with the organization and subsequent placement on the physically unable to perform list with an ankle injury.

Taylor emphasized multiple times his return to the practice field this week was because he finally felt fully healed from offseason ankle surgery, and he declined to discuss his trade request from Indianapolis and contract issues.

“The No. 1 thing that’s changed is I’m finally able to step back on the practice field,” Taylor said. “Like I said it’s a big day, it’s a huge day. You’ve got nerves, you’re anxious. You want to do well. You’ve been working so much. You can simulate as many things as you want but nothing simulates football but playing football.”

Taylor added: “I’ve been around. Like I said, the No. 1 goal was for me to get 100 percent healthy. So I think just being in communication with the training staff and the team, and getting everyone on the same page in order to make sure not only myself but everyone who is injured and off the field has everything they completely need in order to get back on the field and do what they love.”

Though he sounded eager to return to game action this season, the former All-Pro RB was predictably evasive on his future in Indianapolis, especially with his rookie deal expiring at the end of this season.

“Listen, like I said, I’m here right now, and my No. 1 thing is to take care of my teammates,” Taylor responded. “A lot of people worry about what I want. … It doesn’t matter necessarily what I want. What matters is what this team needs, what this team wants, what this city wants and what this city needs. What the city needs is a championship. While I’m here that’s what I’m going to work my tail off to do. That’s what I worked my tail off to get the opportunity to do.”

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Despite his very public trade request and disagreements with owner Jim Irsay, Taylor told reporters Thursday that he was committed to the Colts in the short term, explaining, “If somebody wasn’t committed, they wouldn’t be here.”

Indy granted Taylor permission to seek a trade in August, but none came to pass by the 53-man roster cutdown deadline the following week. The Packers and Dolphins were two teams involved in trade talks for the former league-leading rusher, with Green Bay offering two mid-round picks for his services, per NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

With Taylor off PUP and back healthy, the Colts could attempt to move the previously disgruntled running back again ahead of the Halloween trade deadline. Rapoport reported ahead of Week 1 that all options were on the table for Taylor, including a trade to Green Bay, Miami or another RB-needy suitor, though it appears interest from those two clubs has cooled. An extension in Indy is also a possibility, though a slim one.

Indy has managed without Taylor through four games, riding rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson to a 2-2 record. Backup RB Zack Moss returned from a broken arm to pace the Colts’ backfield in Taylor’s stead, leading the team with 280 rushing yards and a TD on 66 carries. Richardson is second in yards (131) and carries (23) with a team-record four rushing scores for a rookie through his first three games. A hodgepodge of Trey Sermon, Deon Jackson and Jake Funk have filled out the corps.

But none of them compare to Taylor. The 24-year-old led the league in carries (332), rushing yards (1,811) and rushing TDs (18) in 2021, en route to a Pro Bowl bid, first-team All-Pro honors and a second-place finish for Offensive Player of the Year. He’s one of the top young running backs in the league, many of whom are similarly frustrated with the market at the position.

If and when Taylor is back in action, he’s an upgrade over whomever the Colts had trotted out there before. Hopefully for Indy, his first game back comes this Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. (Taylor was listed as a full participant in Wednesday’s estimated practice report and will need to be activated to the 53-man roster in order to play.)

It’s unclear — to Taylor, Indianapolis and the NFL — if it will be his last season debut in a Colts uniform. Regardless, the RB, finally back from his ankle ailment, is focused on the now, not the future.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of showing the Colts or other teams or players, I think it’s about yourself,” Taylor said on Thursday. “Like I said, you have people directing you and helping you to rehab and get back. But you want to show yourself, like ‘hey, I’ve been working. I’ve been working a long time for this moment.’ So I’m going to prove to myself. Like hey, ‘Let’s just see. All of those days where you couldn’t get another rep in. You thought oh this muscle is sore. You push through it. See where it takes us today.’ “

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