INDIANAPOLIS – Philip Rivers’ career resume is filled with bold-face accomplishments.
The 38-year-old quarterback ranks sixth in NFL history with 59,271 passing yards and 397 touchdown passes. He’s led 32 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime, and he’s led 27 fourth-quarter comebacks.
Rivers is an eight-time Pro Bowler and was twice named an all-pro by Pro Football Focus.
But significant postseason success has eluded the prolific passer.
Over 16 professional seasons, Rivers has appeared in just 11 playoff games and won five. Just four of those games and two victories have come after his 30th birthday.
He’s never played in the Super Bowl, and his lone AFC Championship Game appearance came way back in 2007.
When the Los Angeles Chargers announced they would not seek to re-sign the former franchise cornerstone in February, there were not-so-subtle whispers the game had passed Rivers by.
Touted as a championship contender in the preseason, the Chargers buckled under the weight of injuries and inconsistency in 2019. Rivers threw 20 interceptions (his highest total since 2016) and 23 touchdowns (his lowest output since 2007), and L.A. finished 4-12.
That could have been the final chapter of Rivers’ career. He has his next job already lined up as head coach at St. Michael Catholic High School in Fairhope, Alabama, and he’s anxious to live out the second chapter of his childhood dream – following in his father Steve’s footsteps at the top of a high school football program.
But Rivers still is having too much fun to step away from the playing field.
So when an opportunity arose to rejoin former Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich with the Indianapolis Colts, the quarterback was more than happy to sign up.
When the regular season opens Sunday on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars (1 p.m., CBS), Rivers won’t be out to prove the naysayers wrong. Nor is he worried about bolstering his legacy.
He’s just ready to win some more football games with people he enjoys being around.
“We have a heck of a group,” Rivers said Wednesday. “I still feel, personally, that I can play at a high level. I think had I been in a brand-new system with no familiarity and not one person I know in the building and totally new everything – maybe that happens more than not in this situation like mine, changing a team 16 years later.
“But coming into a place where, offensively, I felt comfortable. Certainly different guys, a little bit different environment, but I felt comfortable with the play call on the first play of training camp.”
Rivers was voted a captain by his teammates Tuesday, and he operated the offense with precision during the two weeks of practices open to the media.
He’s built an instant connection with veteran wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and served as a mentor for a young team looking to make the leap into championship contention.
After a disappointing 7-9 finish a year ago, Rivers was brought in to make the offense more explosive and consistent.
But the Colts are keeping the expectations in check.
“I just want Philip to be himself,” Reich said. “I know he will – a great leader, very comfortable in his own skin. Just to be him and know that he has a good football team around him. Just play good, winning football, execute what’s called, use your experience and your intelligence to make the checks, do it with confidence.”
Rivers already has inspired confidence in his teammates.
Despite entering the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center for the first time in late July, the quarterback quickly ingratiated himself with the locker room.
He relishes the trash talk with linebackers Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker Jr., and he’s quick to share his wealth of knowledge with the entire roster.
“He brings a certain skill set and a certain knowledge and IQ of football that I haven’t seen before, just from how many years he’s been in the NFL,” center Ryan Kelly said. “He’s seen everything.”
The latter might prove to be Rivers’ most important trait as the NFL begins its most unpredictable season.
There were no preseason games this summer, no in-person team workouts in the spring and fewer training camp practices to bring everything together. Nobody knows for certain how the next four months are going to play out in front of mostly empty stadiums while the nation continues to fight through the coronavirus pandemic.
Rivers provides a calm voice in the storm.
He felt the nerves that accompany a new season as game week practices began, and he expects that feeling to continue all the way to kickoff Sunday.
In some ways, it represents a bit of normalcy during a year that has been anything but normal.
“There is a level of, I guess, comfort that comes with playing for a lot of years,” Rivers said. “So it will be the good kind of butterflies, the good kind of nervous that you have because you really care. You care about it. You love it. You look forward to it.
“You want to go out and perform and help at a high level.”
All 53 players on the active roster practiced Wednesday.
Linebacker Matthew Adams (ankle), safety Julian Blackmon (knee), left tackle Anthony Castonzo (oblique), wide receiver Dezmon Patmon (knee) and Kelly (knee) were limited.
Safety Ibraheim Campbell was signed Wednesday to fill out the 16-man practice squad.
Campbell has appeared in 53 games over five seasons with the Cleveland Browns, Houston Texas, Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets and Green Bay Packers.