Colts teammates support Taylor as RB returns

INDIANAPOLIS — Jonathan Taylor‘s status with the Indianapolis Colts has been in flux for months during his protracted contract standoff. But as the All-Pro running back prepares to return to practice this week, his standing with his teammates appears unaffected.

Taylor rejoined the Colts on the field Wednesday for the first time since last December — he’s preparing to be activated from the physically unable to perform list — and there is building excitement in the locker room about the potential impact of his return.

As for opinions about Taylor as a person and teammate, his trade demand and ugly fight with the Colts haven’t soured other players on him.

“As far as how everyday business has gone, it’s the NFL,” tight end Mo Alie-Cox said. “We’re going to come here and work and we’ll always welcome you back with open arms.”

Taylor has been at odds with the Colts since the offseason after the organization’s decision in May to not grant his request for a contract extension. Taylor, the 2021 NFL rushing champion, is in the final year of his rookie contract.

“He’s got to make decisions and he’s got a plan that he feels is going to best feed his family,” linebacker Zaire Franklin said. “Obviously, we love and support him and appreciate everything he’s done for us and can’t wait for him to get back.

“I’m looking forward to competing against him again [in practice]. J.T. makes me better. … I always tell him that iron sharpens iron, and there’s no better player in the league to get better against.”

The iciness between Taylor and the Colts seems to have thawed a bit, though it’s unclear what that means for his contract situation. Colts coach Shane Steichen dodged questions about Taylor for weeks before an about-face this week. Steichen has spoken expansively about Taylor and heaped praise on the 2020 second-round draft selection.

“He’s a big-time player,” Steichen said earlier this week. “He’s explosive. He can hit the home runs when he sees the hole. … Great vision, power, obviously, one of the top backs in this league without a doubt.”

A team source indicated this week that Taylor’s attitude toward the team has been significantly improved and that the relationship is headed in the right direction — a far cry from Taylor’s earlier interactions with the club, which were said to be much more heated.

With all four teams in the AFC South sitting at 2-2, the Colts think Taylor could provide the boost they need to make a run. He could be of particular assistance to rookie dual-threat quarterback Anthony Richardson.

“Any running back that’s running the ball well, it opens up the passing game because I can use my legs as well,” Richardson said.

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