INDIANAPOLIS — There was work to be done because, while bridges weren’t burned over the past several months, they certainly were singed.
Owner Jim Irsay admitted significant damage had been done to the Indianapolis Colts’ relationship with running back Jonathan Taylor.
There was Taylor’s request — demand? — for a contract extension. Failing that, he requested — demanded? — a trade.
Irsay addressed the rocky road traveled by both sides and the surprising final destination — a three-year, $42 million extension with $26.5 million guaranteed — during a Saturday conference call with a handful of local reporters.
“You go through difficult situations together, and it gets tough,’’ Irsay said. “But in the end, you hope that there’s a good road that’s succeeded in getting it done.’
Irsay mentioned “a standoff’’ and “battles.’’ He admitted this type of impasse can occur when a player is seeking long-term financial security for his family. At one point, franchise icon Edgerrin James stepped in to offer counsel.
Irsay even conceded the extension was given sooner than he would have preferred — Taylor has one year remaining on his rookie contract. But he added, “I was OK with it because of his age and because of the four-year commitment.’’
In bottom-line terms, Taylor will be paid $46.3 million over the next four seasons. The extension ties him to the Colts through 2026. The extension is worth $14 million per season while the team’s four-year commitment averages $11.6 million.
General manager Chris Ballard and director of football administration Mike Bluem spearheaded a Colts’ contingent that kept in contact with Taylor’s agent, Malki Kawa, and found common ground.
“We were talking behind the scenes,’’ Irsay said. “There was just a lot of work trying to mend the spirit and the heart.’’
Before Taylor signed the extension, Irsay wanted to gauge his commitment to the franchise.
“Can he look us in the eye and say, ‘Look, I am here to play football. I am here to give all I have to make the horseshoe great’’’ he said.
Irsay needed to know if Taylor had the same mettle as Grover Stewart, DeForest Buckner, Quenton Nelson, Zaire Franklin and others.
In on-field terms, Irsay didn’t bother to temper his enthusiasm.
At one point, he let his mind wonder to a Colts-Miami Dolphins meeting in the AFC Championship game in January.
Just how good can this team be?
That’s been the speculation since the Colts invested the No. 4 pick in April’s draft on quarterback Anthony Richardson, pairing an explosive rookie quarterback with the explosive running back.
“It’s a perfect 1-2 punch combination,’’ Irsay said.
Taylor was added to the active roster Saturday after missing the first four games while on the reserve-physically unable to perform list. Irsay expects him to handle limited reps Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.
“We have to ease him into it,’’ Irsay said. “We think it will take three or four weeks before he really, really hits full stride.’’
Again, Irsay’s mind went to extreme heights.
“Everyone knows Anthony Richardson’s unique speed and what he brings to the field and defensive coordinators now,’’ he said. “But now with Jonathan … you’ve got to be worried about grand slam home runs. Now you’ve got the 500-foot home run over Wrigley Field centerfield.
“This is Jonathan … This team’s changed.’’
Irsay was just getting started.
“If there are problems with a player, you have to overcome it as a franchise,’’ he said. “But it’s better when everything, everyone is hummin’ in that right direction.
“Boy, I want to tell ya it’s exciting when you look at what you can do with a 21-year old quarterback like we have, and a 24-year old running back like we have and looking at our draft picks, looking at our future.’’
Irsay singled out the team’s talent at tight end — he was downright giddy when he mentioned Jelani Woods — as well as running back Zack Moss and wideouts Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce and Josh Downs.
But Saturday’s conference call was all about Jonathan Taylor.
The long, rocky road traveled to the satisfying conclusion.
“He makes us a different football team,’’ Irsay said.