The Indianapolis Colts went nearly all of last season without Ballard, their leading rusher in 2012. They're about to face the same void in 2014.
Taking Ballard out of the mix is like removing the safety net from underneath the "T-Rich Redemption High-Wire Act." Richardson's chief backup is now Ahmad Bradshaw, a once-productive player whose body has been breaking down for years. Chris Rainey and Dan Herron linger on the periphery, hardly first choices to grind out tough yards for a Super Bowl contender.
Here's what else we learned Friday:
- Johnny Manziel is still fighting for his right to party, but he now concedes he didn't always do it the right way this offseason. "At the end of the day, I've made some rookie mistakes," the quarterback said. Browns coach Mike Pettine, meanwhile, reiterated that Brian Hoyer will start the preseason opener. Privately, the Brownscould be worried about their first-round pick.
- Rob Gronkowski spoke with reporters about his ongoing recovery from knee surgery, explaining that he remains less than 100 percent and will be brought along slowly in training camp. His style of play will remain intact, however. "I ain't changing that one bit. I'm gonna go full speed when I'm out there, and I'm gonna keep smashing and dashing everything I do." "Smashing and Dashing" is a great fantasy team name.
- The fallout has begun in Seattle following Marshawn Lynch's decision to hold out of training camp. Pete Carroll is (predictably) "disappointed." Teammate Doug Baldwin has Beast Mode's back, dismissing Carroll's take that players should honor the contracts they sign. "I hate the 'but you signed the contract' argument,'" Baldwin wrote on Twitter. "Players can't say that (expletive) when organizations cut them." Defending Super Bowl titles is tricky business.