INDIANAPOLIS — Jonathan Taylor’s status with the Indianapolis Colts has been in flux for months during their protracted contract standoff. But as the All-Pro running back prepares to return to practice this week, his standing with his teammates doesn’t appear to be affected.
Taylor rejoined the Colts on the field Wednesday for the first time since last December (he is preparing to be activated from the physically unable to perform list) and there is growing excitement in the locker room about the potential impact of his return.
As far as opinions on Taylor as a person and teammate go, his trade demand and ugly fight with the Colts haven’t turned other players off of him.
“As far as how day-to-day business has been going, it’s the NFL,” tight end Mo Alie-Cox said. “We’re going to come here and work and we’ll always welcome you with open arms.”
Taylor has been at odds with the Colts since the offseason following the organization’s decision in May not to grant his contract extension request. Taylor, the 2021 NFL rushing champion, is in the final year of his rookie contract.
“He has to make decisions and he has a plan that he thinks will feed his family the best,” linebacker Zaire Franklin said. “Obviously, we love him and support him and appreciate everything he’s done for us and we can’t wait for him to come back.
“I really want to compete against him again. [in practice]. JT makes me better. … I always tell him that iron sharpens iron and there’s no better player in the league to improve against.”
The chill between Taylor and the Colts appears to have dissipated somewhat, although it’s unclear what that means for his contract situation. Colts coach Shane Steichen dodged questions about Taylor for weeks before an about-face this week. Steichen has spoken extensively about Taylor and has praised the 2020 second-round draft pick.
“He’s an important player,” Steichen said earlier this week. “He’s explosive. He can hit home runs when he sees the hole… Great vision, power, obviously one of the best running backs in this league without a doubt.”
A team source indicated this week that Taylor’s attitude toward the team has improved significantly and that the relationship is heading in the right direction, a far cry from Taylor’s previous interactions with the club, which were said to be much more heated.
With all four AFC South teams sitting at 2-2, the Colts believe Taylor could provide them with the boost they need moving forward. He could be of particular help to rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson.
“Any running back that runs the ball well opens up the passing game because I can use my legs too,” Richardson said.