April 21, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS — Colts running back Jonathan Taylor has returned to practice this week to much fanfare, but his long-term future with the team is still very much clouded even after his first comments in nearly four months.

Taylor, the All-Pro running back who has been in a protracted contract standoff with the team, said Thursday that he is finally healthy after right ankle surgery. But when asked whether he wanted to be with the team going forward — particularly in light of his earlier trade request — Taylor’s answer spoke volumes.

“I’m here right now,” he said.

Taylor added, “I don’t think it matters if I’m saying I’m committed or not, because I’m here. If somebody wasn’t committed, they wouldn’t be here. And right now, I’m here, and my No. 1 goal is to attack this first practice. It’s been over 290 days, I believe.”

Taylor has not practiced or played for the Colts since December, when he reinjured his right ankle and was placed on injured reserve for the final three games of the season. He has been designated to return from the physically unable to perform list, and the Colts have 21 days to activate him to the 53-man roster. Indianapolis held a walk-through Wednesday but was scheduled to follow with a full practice Thursday afternoon.

Taylor did not address his contract status during his 11-minute news conference. He is in the final season of his rookie contract after his request for an early extension was denied in May. Taylor, who led the NFL in rushing in 2021, asked for the trade upon reporting to training camp and left camp on two separate occasions.

“I’m not here to get into any contract things,” he said. “Those were over the course of the offseason, but the season is here. We’ve got the Tennessee Titans on the clock. Division matchup. What are you going to do?”

Taylor’s relationship with the team in recent months has been described as tumultuous, but there have been numerous indications in recent days that things have turned a corner. Asked what changed, Taylor didn’t address the interpersonal aspect.

“The No. 1 thing that changed is that I’m finally able to step on the field,” he said. “Like I said, it’s a big day. It’s a huge day.”

It’s unclear whether Taylor will play in Sunday’s matchup with Tennessee. Coach Shane Steichen has not ruled it out and said Taylor is in good physical condition.

Meanwhile, Taylor has maintained the support of his teammates, despite the uncertain circumstances surrounding his more than two-month absence that began when he reported for training camp in July. Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner shared with Taylor his personal experience in seeking a contract extension from the San Francisco 49ers in 2020, an effort that resulted in his trade to Indianapolis that came with an $84 million contract extension.

“I never really got into numbers with him,” Buckner said. “It was just really just having patience with the business side of things.”

Taylor, always a popular player in the locker room, said he still feels the team’s embrace.

“Whenever your brothers see you down and injured, they just want you back on the field,” he said. “First of all, they want you healthy, and then once you’re healthy, they want you back on the field. So, hearing their love and support throughout this whole thing … it just shows you the kind of guys we have in the locker room.”

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