By Kevin Brockway/Special to the Sun
INDIANAPOLIS – Former Florida all-purpose back Trey Burton is eager to prove that his NFL career isn’t done yet.
In signing a one-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts last Wednesday, Burton is confident he can get back to being the dependable pass-catching tight end he showed with the Chicago Bears before a hip injury impacted his 2019 season.
“I still wanted to play ball and the Colts wanted to give me the opportunity to play,” Burton said. “So, I felt like I still had a lot left in the tank. I feel like I still enjoy playing the game.”
In Indianapolis, Burton will be reunited with Colts coach Frank Reich, his former offensive coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles. Burton had 60 catches for 575 yards and 6 TD catches in Reich’s two seasons in Philadelphia. Together, they were part of a Super Bowl winning team with the Eagles in 2017.
Burton said he’s looking forward to playing in Reich’s offense and catching passes from quarterback Phillip Rivers, whom the Colts signed as a free agent earlier this offseason.
“This offense is based around tight ends,” Burton said. “Philip over his career notoriously loves throwing the ball to tight ends and he has had a lot of really good ones he has been able to throw to. Just knowing Frank (Reich) personally from previous teams and things like that, it was basically a no-brainer for me.”
Burton, who still holds the UF record for touchdowns in a game with six against Kentucky in 2010, has carved out a successful NFL career since making the Eagles roster in 2014 as an undrafted free agent. After signing with the Bears as a free agent in 2018, Burton posted his best pro season, finishing the year with 54 catches for 569 yards and 6 TDs. But in 2019, Burton appeared in just 8 games, starting 5, finishing with 14 catches for 84 yards and no TDs. The Bears released him earlier this month.
Burton said Friday he had a preseason injury that was misdiagnosed before the start of the 2019 season.
“I was kind of rushed back into playing and not necessarily having the time to recover that I should’ve had,” Burton said. “I tried to fight through the season. I think I played seven or eight games – something like that. Every week was a – I mean when I say a struggle, that is a light term for it. It was rough man. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to play coming up to almost every Sunday.”
Burton said he underwent hip surgery in December and was under the impression he would be back with the Bears in 2020 to enter the third year of his four-year, $32 million contract.
“The conversations that we had during the offseason were really positive,” Burton said. “Everybody seemed to be excited about me getting healthy and getting ready to play this upcoming year.”
The Colts, Burton said, were the first team to call him following his release. They were able to quickly hammer out a one-year deal. Burton said he’s in the fourth month of a six-month recovery from hip surgery and expects to be ready by the start of fall camp.
“I am not an injury-prone type of guy,” Burton said. “I’ve never really been injured before. So if I can get healthy, which I believe I will be able to, I am really excited for the season.”
With the Colts, Burton should be in line to get plenty of targets. Last season, Indianapolis tight ends Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron combined for 74 catches and 7 TDs. Burton will fill the void left by Ebron, who signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I am walking into an unbelievable opportunity from the tight end room,” Burton said. “I mean there are some great guys in there – guys who have played at a really high level before, guys that I have watched in the past and respect the heck out of them and their game and how they play it.”
At 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds, Burton said he thinks he’s improved as a blocker at the position as well. It’s a long way from when Burton began his career as an option quarterback at UF in 2010.
“Blocking is more of a mentality than a size thing,” Burton said. “Mentality and technique is really what matters. I think I’ve grown tremendously over the last four years at this position. I’ve learned a lot from Philly and from Chicago and the guys that I’ve been surrounded by. I’ve been fortunate to have some great coaches. Without those guys I wouldn’t be where I am at.”