REGGIE HAYES: Vontae Davis release adds to Colts’ image problems

Indianapolis Colts cornerback Vontae Davis (21) is congratulated by quarterback Andrew Luck (12) after intercepting a pass intended for Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson during the second half of an NFL football game in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014.(File photo by the Associated Press)

Indianapolis Colts cornerback Vontae Davis (21) is congratulated by quarterback Andrew Luck (12) after intercepting a pass intended for Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson during the second half of an NFL football game in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014.(File photo by the Associated Press)

Vontae Davis’ sour ending in Indianapolis could have longer-term, even more bitter ramifications for the Colts.

How are the Colts going to sell potential free agents Indy is the place to be? How are they going to persuade top-notch talent the Colts will have their best interests in mind? How are they going to explain the end of Davis’ time in Indianapolis in a way that doesn’t make the Colts seem heartless?

At the very least, they have their work cut out for them. But what else is new?

Franchise quarterback Andrew Luck’s extended shoulder problem already clouds the team’s future, and the Colts may have further outside perception issues after announcing Thursday they have released Davis.

Davis has been an outstanding cornerback for the Colts during much of his five years in Indy, although this season has been subpar. Things came to a head when he was left behind for the Houston trip because of what coach Chuck Pagano called a “coach’s decision” after Davis didn’t take kindly to being replaced in the starting lineup.

Davis told reporters that he has been bothered by a groin injury that contributed to his subpar play. The Colts insist they had no indication that he was injured and he had not missed practice or been on the injury list.

Davis was told he would be demoted from the starting lineup by defensive coordinator Ted Monachino and defensive backs coach Greg Williams and not Pagano, which upset Davis.

“It should be more about the respect,” Davis told reporters. “I’m a professional. I’ve been in (the NFL) long enough. When I look at the situation, I feel like there was no respect. Knowing Chuck, I figured it would come from him. That really bothered me.”

The Indianapolis Star, citing league sources, said Davis sought outside doctors’ opinions on his groin injury and season-ending surgery has been recommended. So Davis’ season was probably already over.

A day after Davis talked about his injury and his frustration with the coaching staff, he was released.

It’s always a sensitive situation when a player says he is injured, team doctors do not see it the same way and, subsequently, the coaching staff and general manager do not see it the same way.

Distrust results, on both sides.

It’ll be fascinating to see how this unfolds in the next few days. It’s possible neither side will publicly comment but will instead give their views through leaks and anonymous sources.

Davis was slated to become a free agent after this season and hinted strongly he would not be interested in returning to the Colts. “Change is good,” Davis told reporters when asked Wednesday about his future.

From the Colts’ perspective, I can see where general manager Chris Ballard would make the decision to part ways with Davis early, moving on with younger players who will be around in 2018. Having a disgruntled player in the locker room does not help any team. The fact Davis implied he wanted out no doubt expedited his exit.

Here’s where the Colts are going to have issues: Potential players will have to be persuaded Indianapolis is a good place to play.

During the Peyton Manning era, and the start of the Luck era, players wanted to come to Indianapolis to be part of the franchise. It wasn’t just offensive players, although running back Frank Gore is a recent example. Defensive players such as Cory Redding and Mike Adams jumped on board and made major contributions.

This season has not been a selling point, with Luck’s continued absence, a 3-6 record and the general feeling by many outside the franchise that Pagano is a lame-duck coach.

If the Colts part ways with Pagano and start with a fresh staff, that move could ease some of the concerns bound to be raised by the Davis’ release. But with Ballard as the general manager who presided over the situation, he will need to assure potential players that there wasn’t pressure on Davis to play while injured.

Some of the Colts’ issues are inevitable in a losing season. Players get frustrated. Coaches get frustrated. The temptation is strong to point fingers and blame others for why things have gone so bad. Frustration of losing undoubtedly caused wide receiver T.Y. Hilton to criticize the offensive line, for which he later apologized.

The Colts are fragile right now, a team at a crossroads, with Luck going on injured reserve and the Davis situation magnifying some perceived dysfunction. Seven games remain before this season can be put to rest. It can’t get much worse, can it?

Marketing the Colts as a great destination for free agents and draft picks will be quite a challenge. That’s putting it mildly.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.

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