INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – This wasn’t a career move Authentic Xavier Rhodes Jersey planned, or saw coming.
His “fresh start’’ with the Indianapolis Colts was suddenly, shockingly thrust on him.
“It was a surprise to me,’’ he said.
That was the Minnesota Vikings informing their 2013 first-round draft pick, defensive mainstay and three-time Pro Bowl selection his services were no longer needed.
It was tantamount to a blindside block.
“I didn’t know in the beginning the Vikings wanted to move on,’’ Rhodes said in a Monday video conference call. “It’s an eye-opener to the point you don’t have a job for a couple of days, a couple of weeks.
“It’s like, ‘That ain’t right.’’’
Then, the reality check was delivered.
Xavier Rhodes was unemployed. The $10 million base salary from the five-year, $70 million extension he signed in 2017 that made him one of the NFL’s highest-paid cornerbacks went Poof!
“I never thought I’d be to this point, but then again, you have to realize where you’re at,’’ he said. “This is the NFL. It’s a business.
“I just accepted the fact and moved on, and I’m ready to play for Indy.’’
Andrew Luck & T.Y. Hilton urge Hoosiers to be responsible
At 29 and after seven productive seasons with the Vikings, Rhodes is ready for that fresh start.
No sooner had Chris Ballard released veteran cornerback Pierre Desir in a cost-cutting move – that freed up roughly $6.8 million against the salary cap – than he replaced him with Rhodes. Financial details are not yet known, but it’s believed the one-year deal is worth approximately $5 million and can increase with incentives.
Despite Rhodes’ decorated career with the Vikings, the team saw a player on the decline. He was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2019 despite enduring – by his own admission – a pair of subpar seasons due to injuries. He dealt with a hamstring injury in ’18 and an ankle issue last season.
In a week 13 meeting with Seattle, Rhodes was involved as the Vikings’ secondary yielded Russell Wilson’s 60-yard touchdown pass to David Moore. In the immediate aftermath, Rhodes and coach Mike Zimmer exchanged words.
“It’s been a battle,’’ Rhodes said, adding, “it’s football, you go out there and play. You can’t make excuses for yourself.
“Last year wasn’t my best season. I accepted that. The Vikings moved on and I’m playing with the Colts.’’
With the Vikings, Rhodes had 10 interceptions, 73 defended passes and 372 tackles. Always a willing and physical tackler, the 6-1, 218-pounder piled up a career-high 63 tackles last season but failed to have an interception for the first time since his rookie season.
He missed only eight of a possible 112 regular-season games.
Rhodes wasn’t certain if his release by the Vikings was a “humbling’’ experience.
“You don’t go in thinking you’re going to be cut,’’ he said. “When you’re on a team where you achieve so much . . . you think it’s going to be that way forever. Then there’s a reality check.
“It’s a business, and at the end of the day, no one’s safe no matter who you are, no matter what player you are. It’s just a reality check to the point no one’s irreplaceable in this league.’’
Sheldon Day: Coming Home
The Colts have long been must-see TV for the Day family, most notably for Sheldon. He honed what would be NFL-level skills at Warren Central High School.
“Oh man, Sunday’s were Colts days,’’ Day said Monday. “Every Sunday after church we tried to rush home and beat the church traffic to make sure we got home to watch the Colts game. It was really big in my household.’’
And now, the hometown kid is playing for his hometown team. After Ballard acquired defensive tackle DeForest Buckner in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers, he signed Day – Buckner’s teammate for four seasons – to a one-year free-agent contract.
“Just the opportunity to go put on the horseshoe and play for the hometown team is something special,’’ Day said. “It’s something I’m looking forward to. Exciting times.’’
Day, 25, has remained active in the local community. He hosts a youth camp every year at Warren Central and has taken fourth-through-sixth grades to Notre Dame, his alma mater, for similar camps.
“I teach them about life skills, and then I also throw in a little sports mix as well,’’ Day said.
In four seasons with the 49ers, Day developed into an important defensive line rotational component. He appeared in 56 regular-season games, starting two, then started alongside Buckner in San Francisco’s three playoff games last season.
Relocating to Indy, he insisted, “was a no-brainer.’’
“They reached out, and there was an interest, and I think it kind of got down to the nitty-gritty,’’ Day said. “Everybody was trying to figure out the numbers and all the other type of stuff, but ultimately I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.’’