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Colts QB Anthony Richardson aiming to play 'smarter,' excited to rejoin 'great' team

The Indianapolis Colts made a run at the playoffs despite their first-round quarterback, Anthony Richardson, landing on injured reserve after only four starts. Now that Richardson has made strides in rehabbing his shoulder injury, he is ready to take over as the Colts' QB1 in 2024 and beyond.

Richardson even believes he could have taken the Colts to the postseason had he not been injured, and his focus has now shifted to getting that done in the 2024 season.

"Oh yeah, for sure. No doubt," Richardson said Thursday. "I believed that when I walked through the door, just looking at the pieces we have. ... I'm going to compete every chance that I get, and we don't want anything short of the playoffs. We want to exceed the playoffs and go to the Super Bowl -- that's the main (goal) -- go get rings here and win championships.

"I do believe if I did play, we go to the playoffs, but even when I didn't play, we had opportunities to go to the playoffs. This team, despite me -- just leave me out of it -- this team is great. We have weapons, as you can see. Playoffs (are) right there in our hands, we just have to execute every play."

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Richardson made clear he wasn't throwing Gardner Minshew, who started 13 games and had one of his best seasons, under the bus. In fact, Richardson said that if there was a silver lining to missing most of his rookie season, it was that it allowed him a chance to observe the game from a different perspective, even if he said he balked initially at having the surgery and shutting things down for the year.

"It's been a great season for me," Richardson said. "The injury definitely opened my eyes to the fact that I could be healthy for the team, everybody in this building, but it allowed me to slow my mind down a little bit, sit back and really learn the game a little bit, despite not playing a few games this year.
"Just sitting back and learning from Gardner, from coach Shane (Steichen), and just being in the building a lot. It definitely taught me a lot of things this year. So, I'd say it was a good rookie season for me."

Richardson completed 50 of 84 passes (59.5%) for 577 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in four starts. He ran 25 times for 136 yards (5.4-yard average) and four TDs, with three fumbles (one lost).

In addition to the grade-3 AC joint sprain against the Titans in Week 5, Richardson also suffered a concussion in Week 2, leaving that game early and missing the next start, along with a few other bumps and bruises. Richardson was asked if he felt the need to change his physical play style when he returns.

"No, I don't think so," he said. "... You know, some of the injuries were unfortunate, you know, like my ankle getting stepped up on (or) hitting my knee on the turf really hard, you know, just stuff like that stuff that I can't control."

Richardson said he can be "a little smarter" and a little more selective when he does choose to put his body in harm's way.

"I can't try to run through everybody," he said. "If it's first and 10, (I need to) get what I can get and get down. Get out of bounds. Get to the sidelines.

"But if the game is on the line, I've got to go out there and compete. It's just a matter of being smart for myself and the team."

But will the Colts have all their same weapons for Richardson next season? The biggest question surrounds Michael Pittman Jr., who will be a free agent this spring, although the wideout kept the door open when he said he wasn't anti-franchise tag this offseason.

Colts general manager Chris Ballard, who held his season-wrap up media conference after Richardson spoke, said he and Pittman have "a really good relationship," one that's "almost too honest I think sometimes." But Ballard said he'd love Pittman back if the Colts can pull if off.

"I mean, look, we're going to work to get him back," Ballard said. "We'll work through that. We got … a few free agents ….

"We'd like to have them all back, but it doesn't work that way. You know, it's just the nature of what we do."

On Richardson, Ballard agreed with his young QB that he needs to be selective when it comes to sacrificing his body. And though the Colts don't truly know whether he'll blossom, Ballard believes the Colts were more "explosive" offensively with him on the field and that Richardson can be a strong quarterback in this league -- not just as a runner.

"We're encouraged about what we saw," Ballard said. "Let's don't crown him. Let's don't stamp him yet. I mean, we're not there, all right? We got a lot of work to do. And he has a lot of work to do. But it's encouraging. … When he was playing I think we were like 10th in explosive plays.

"... And I'm gonna tell you one of the things that really surprised me of Anthony, because I was concerned about it. This guy's a passer. … I mean, this guy's a legitimate passer. And I believe that, and I think he's gonna continue to get better and improve the more he plays, but … Anthony can play from the pocket and throw the ball accurately."

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