Coming off an All-Pro season that saw him lead the league in rushing with 1,811 yards and score 20 total touchdowns, Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor appeared to be ready to establish himself as an NFL superstar last season. An ankle injury he suffered in Week 4 derailed that plan and Taylor’s third NFL season was a forgettable one as he rushed for just 861 yards and four touchdowns in 11 games as the Colts stumbled to a 4-12-1 record.
Eligible for an extension this summer, Taylor reported to training camp last week with Indianapolis and was placed on the physically unable to perform list as his ankle continues to heal. According to the Colts, that might not be the only ailment Taylor is dealing with and the team is reportedly thinking about moving him to the non-football injury list due to a back injury the 24-year-old suffered while working out on his own in Arizona.
Taylor has denied his back is hurt. “Never had . . . back pain.” Taylor tweeted. “Never reported back pain. Not sure who ‘sources’ are, but find new ones.”
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If the Colts do move Taylor to the NFI list, that would be significant because it would mean the team will not have to pay him until he gets on the field, since the alleged injury was not suffered while he was playing or practicing for Indianapolis or working out at a team facility.
All of this comes in the wake of Taylor meeting with Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay over the weekend after contract negotiations between the Colts and their running back reached an impasse. Irsay, as he sometimes does, made things more complicated by tweeting. “NFL Running Back situation — We have negotiated a CBA, that took years of effort and hard work and compromise in good faith by both sides,” Irsay wrote last week. “To say now that a specific Player category wants another negotiation after the fact, is inappropriate. Some Agents are selling ‘bad faith.’”
Taylor’s agent tweeted back and things got to the point where a trade request was made. The team is saying that request will not be honored. Around the same time news of the trade request leaked, Irsay met with Taylor on his bus at training camp. Afterward, he told reporters that he reminded the star running back that “no one treats players as well as this franchise.” Then, the 64-year-old NFL owner added another fascinating nugget.
“If I die tonight and Jonathan Taylor is out of the league, no one’s gonna miss us,” Irsay said. “The league goes on. We know that. The National Football [League] rolls on. It doesn’t matter who comes and who goes and it’s a privilege to be a part of it.”
If Taylor is a part of it for a full season, he’s due to make $4.3 million in the final year of his rookie contract. If the Colts place Taylor on the NFI list as a way of responding to his trade request and leveraging him at the negotiating table, the situation in Indianapolis is going to get very, very messy very, very quickly. As has been well-documented, NFL running backs are largely treated like disposable razors and Taylor is no different. The Colts have all of the leverage and have no reason to give Taylor an extension other than to make him happy. They probably won’t.