WESTFIELD – Jim Irsay showed his trust in Chris Ballard and Frank Reich by signing them to extensions this week.
And he’s going to trust them to handle the uncertainty hovering over the Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback room.
That uncertainty reared its head Aug. 2 when Carson Wentz underwent surgery on his left ankle, bringing into question his availability for the Sept. 12 opener against the Seattle Seahawks. His rehab was set for 5-to-12 weeks, and the opener would be at roughly the six-week mark.
If Wentz isn’t ready, the Colts would start a QB with zero game experience: 2020 fourth-round Jacob Eason or rookie sixth-round pick Sam Ehlinger.
Or there’s a possibility if Wentz isn’t ready and Ballard and Reich aren’t convinced Eason or Ehlinger is a viable option, the Colts could bring in a veteran.
Wentz clearly is the best option, but only if he’s ready. That point was driven home when Irsay talked with him recently.
“I told him, ‘Look, you have to be right. We want you 100%. Don’t rush it back,’’ Irsay shared during Thursday’s joint practice with the Carolina Panthers. “I know he’s such a competitor and he wants to be there for his team, but he has to help us all by only coming back when he’s ready ready because we want to see him healthy for two months and two years and four years . . .
“You just want to see him ready when he comes back. If that’s Seattle, so be it. If it’s not, it’s when he’s ready and no one can tell that for sure.’’
Irsay is similarly optimistic – cautiously optimistic – All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson will be ready sooner rather than later. Nelson had surgery on his right foot Aug. 3. That followed two offseason surgeries.
“He’s cut from a tough cloth,’’ Irsay said. “He’s hoping to be back for Seattle.’’
The quarterback dilemma, though, is dominating training camp.
Irsay praised Eason’s raw talent and Ehlinger’s potential for playing above his draft status, but made it clear nothing has been determined if Wentz isn’t available for the opener.
That’s where his trust in Reich and Ballard is invaluable.
“I have a comfort level, obviously. That’s why Frank is here,’’ he said. “No one knows more than him on how he wants to go into the beginning of the season to be ready for those home games.’’
For now, the Colts will stand pat.
“I would probably say we want to go in with the way we are,’’ Irsay said, “but I know Chris and Frank will talk about it and continue to huddle about it and see what happens. Right now, there’s probably a good chance we go in that way. But that could change.
“We always keep our options open, but at this point obviously it’s up in the air because you don’t know. Carson could be back or one of the young guys we want to go with because we feel like they’re ready.’’
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You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.
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