KRAVITZ: For Ballard, the hard work of fixing the Colts is just beginning

Colts GM Chris Ballard (WTHR file photo)
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Bob Kravitz

Welcome to Indianapolis, Chris Ballard.

While you were unpacking and setting up your new office at West 56th Street, a couple of significant things happened, things you weren't counting on when you accepted the job to become the Indianapolis Colts general manager:

-David Parry, your team's nose tackle, got arrested Feb. 25 in Scottsdale, Ariz., on suspicion of robbery, auto theft, criminal damage, resisting arrest and driving under the influence. It took six police officers to get him under control.

-Pat McAfee, your Pro Bowl punter and one of the team's best weapons, decided to retire a few weeks back in order to pursue a media career.

Like it wasn't enough to figure out what to do about pending free agents Jack Doyle, Erik Walden, Darius Butler, Mike Adams and some lesser lights. Like it wasn't enough trying to figure out how to rebuild a defense that languished at or near the bottom of every statistical category known to humankind.

So what does Ballard do?

We asked the question every which way Wednesday late afternoon when Ballard spoke at the NFL Combine, but we didn't get anything approaching a solid answer – nor did we expect to get a solid answer.

"We're working right now just to get all the details," he said. "We haven't got all the information yet and I don't want to comment on that until we get all the details and all the facts."

Have you spoken to Parry?

"Me and David did visit," Ballard said. "He was waiting for me on Monday and we visited. I'd like to keep that private between me and him."

It's like this: Ballard and the Colts have got to go beyond the police report and let the judicial system hash this mess out. Remember, linebacker Josh McNary was charged with rape and put on the commissioner's exempt list, only to get exonerated. He is still with the club, at least at this point.

If Parry is found guilty of a crime, the league will surely come calling with some kind of penalty, and then it's up to the Colts as to whether they should keep Parry on the roster or set him free. If it amounts to nothing – although if you read snippets of the police report, it doesn't sound like nothing – then all is well and everybody moves forward like nothing much happened.

This could be an opportunity, though, for Ballard to make a statement, to change the culture of a team that has had its fair share of missteps in recent years. He seemed to be making a statement when he ditched D'Qwell Jackson, who had both a legal issue and then tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, missing the final four regular-season games. Now whether Jackson was let go because of those issues or whether Ballard just believes he can upgrade his roster with a better player than Jackson, we don't truly know. But the Colts new GM can send a message here, a strong one, cutting bait with a player who has been something of a staple in the middle of the defensive line. He's neither an impact player nor a bust, but he is durable and he does come cheap, which is always part of the personnel calculation.

Ballard was asked about his philosophy regarding players who are perceived as character risks; his old team, the Kansas City Chiefs, had great success with two players, Tyreek Hill and Marcus Peters, who had checkered pasts.

"Kids make mistakes," he said. "They're young kids still growing up and they make mistakes. We have to figure out – that's our job, our organizations job – to figure out the guys we're willing to take a chance on."

In other words, talent gets more rope than ordinary players. It's always been that way, and it always will. It will be intriguing, though, to see how Ballard handles his first off-field mini-crisis.

Before the Parry news broke, Ballard received another newsflash the week of the Super Bowl: McAfee was retiring. Normally, news of a punter's retirement would barely resonate, but McAfee was a two-time Pro Bowl punter and an absolute weapon, both punting and kicking off.

Welcome to Indy, Chris.

"We need a punter?" Ballard asked, laughing. "Let me say this about Pat: I didn't get a chance to know Pat and haven't yet; I look forward to meeting him. Pat was a great player for the Colts and people keep asking the question, 'Hey, are you disappointed?' Yeah, I was disappointed. But also on the other side of that, I was happy for Pat because he found his life's work. When a player's career ends, when the cheering stops, when the camaraderie of the locker room ends, they've got to have something that they're passionate about in life. So I'm happy for him that he's able to find something that he's really passionate about.

"As for finding that (a new punter), he's a difficult guy to replace. We're working on it. We'll find an adequate replacement…"

There is some good news, though, news that has little to do with Parry and McAfee: In a year when the Colts desperately need to rebuild their defense – I mean, from top to bottom – this is an extraordinarily deep and talented defensive draft.

"It's one of the best defensive drafts I've seen," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said recently. "…Anybody looking for an edge (rusher) in the first round is going to find him."

This past month, though, has provided new and unanticipated questions for Ballard. Does he make a statement and drop Parry after his alleged night of drunken loutishness? Where does he find a suitable replacement for the best punter in the NFL? Oh, and did we mention the upcoming free agency period and then the Draft, where the Colts will have five picks in the first four rounds?

Welcome to Indy, Chris.

Where the fun of fixing the Colts never ends.

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