INDIANAPOLIS -- New Colts starting quarterback Philip Rivers knew about the criticism from his struggles at times during the 2019 season while with the Los Angeles Chargers. He didn't go seek out everything that was said about him because he knows negativity comes with the job at times.
But as he points out, "at the same time, we're all human."
"At times what may have aggravated me a little bit last year was [critics saying] that I couldn't play anymore," Rivers said Wednesday. "When you heard that, it bothered me because I wanted to go, 'Shoot, let's go turn on the tape and watch all the good things.' There were some bad plays. Certainly some throws I want back and certainly some very costly mistakes. I own up to all those. There was so much good and I had some throws last year that were probably as good as I've had my whole career. I knew. So I didn't feel like I had to sell that to anyone. But at the same time, it did aggravate you little bit. I think it's OK to be aware. I'm one of those guys that likes to be aware."
Part of the reason the Chargers decided to part ways this past winter with Rivers after 16 seasons was because he turned the ball over 23 times, including 20 interceptions, which were the third most in the NFL in 2019.
The Colts, however, don't see a 38-year-old quarterback who is regressing. They see one who can still make the necessary throws and help lead them back to the playoffs next season for just the second time since 2014. That's why the Colts gave Rivers a one-year, $25 million deal to replace Jacoby Brissett as their starting quarterback back in March. Rivers, who has started 224 straight games, has thrown for 59,271 yards and 397 touchdowns, earning eight Pro Bowl invitations in his career.
"I can just tell you this and I know we still have to play games and all that stuff, and that's the exciting part, but the further we get into this process with Philip, the more I'm convinced that was the right move for us," coach Frank Reich said earlier this spring. "This guy is an elite quarterback and I think (he) went with this roster. We have to stay healthy and we have to get some breaks. We all know that. It's hard."
The Colts return the only offensive line that started all 16 games last season, their top receiver T.Y. Hilton, and top tight end Jack Doyle to go with running back Marlon Mack. The team used its first two draft picks on receiver Michael Pittman Jr. out of USC and running back Jonathan Taylor from Wisconsin to help an offense that finished 30th in the league in passing last season.
"Something I can confirm is the guys up front and the way we run the football is pretty awesome," Rivers said. "I'm pretty fired up about that. That's where it starts and usually good things come from that. It's going to be very multiple and very dynamic."
Rivers, like just about every other player who switched teams during the offseason, will be playing catch-up in developing relationships with his teammates. Facilities were shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Teams spent the spring having virtual meeting sessions instead of taking part in on-field drills.
What the Colts and Rivers hope will help the quarterback is that he's been running Reich's offensive system since 2013. Rivers went into the spring meeting sessions knowing more than 85 percent of his coach's system. Reich and Rivers were together for three seasons with the Chargers. Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni and tight ends coach Jason Michael also were on the Chargers' staff.
"I do know the scheme, but there's always tweaks when you haven't been with guys," Rivers said. "It's been longer with Frank than Nick. Different terminology. I remember calling things this, now we're calling that. I feel like that's been good for me. As far as studying playbook stuff, I haven't had to do that in a long, long time. That's been fun to do. Kind of a challenge."
Being in the "classroom" and doing the actual work on the field are two different things, though. Rivers has worked on cadence calls with center Ryan Kelly and gone over route running with his skill position players, but it wasn't until this week that Rivers had two throwing sessions with some of his teammates, including Doyle and receiver Parris Campbell.
Rivers recently moved his family, which includes nine children, to Indianapolis. He'll remain here until the start of training camp, which is scheduled for July 28 barring any setback due to the coronavirus, where he'll continue to work out with teammates.
"Certainly it is important to all of us, to all our guys, that we get together and get some work done," Rivers said. "Haven't met many of these guys in person, much less thrown them a pass or had a person-to-person conversation."