INDIANAPOLIS — T.Y. Hilton could be back on the field for the Indianapolis Colts as early as Sunday’s home game against the rival Houston Texans.
Hilton — who suffered a neck injury during the final training camp practice in Westfield and underwent surgery in late August — was designated to return from injured reserve Wednesday. The Colts have a three-week window to determine whether to activate the veteran wide receiver or shut him down for the season.
It seems unlikely a player could miss the first five weeks of the season with a neck injury and immediately return to competition. But if anyone can do it, it might be Hilton.
“We all know how hard he’s been working,” Indianapolis quarterback Carson Wentz said. “Whether he’s out at practice or not, we know how hard he’s been working through rehab and everything. Physically, I’m hoping. I’m optimistic. I think everybody is hoping he can be out there, but mentally he’s still dialed in. He’s a smart, savvy, veteran. So, if he can go, I’m not worried about where he’s at mentally or any of that stuff.”
In 18 career regular-season appearances against Houston, Hilton has 97 catches for 1,718 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s averaged a whopping 17.7 yards per reception and 95.4 yards per game.
Colts head coach Frank Reich joked it’s “probably” no coincidence Hilton is looking to return during Texans week.
But Indianapolis won’t rush the 31-year-old back to the field. There had been some confidence he could return by the end of this month, so he might be a couple weeks ahead of schedule.
“Yeah, I could see him — we’ll evaluate it as we go,” Reich said. “I’ve watched him work out. I’ve watched him work out over the last few days and know he’s hitting some of his normal high-speed T.Y. yardage. So we’ll check it out as we go.”
Hilton’s return would give a lift to an offense that recorded a season-high 513 yards in Monday’s loss against the Baltimore Ravens, and it would add another on-field leader to the mix.
The practice week ultimately will determine the receiver’s availability, but there is plenty of optimism given Hilton’s history of coming back ahead of schedule.
“I’m still hoping just like everybody else,” Wentz said. “We’d all love for him to get out there. Rumor has been he’s been pretty good in this rivalry over the years. Definitely hoping he can get out there.”
THEY SAID IT
“Yeah, definitely. I saw it Day 1 coming in. They’ve had guys been around each other for three-plus years. It definitely shows the camaraderie and stuff. They take in people, and you kind of join seamlessly with those guys. It’s a good experience.” — left guard Chris Reed on whether he’s seen the offensive line begin to gel as the current unit has gained reps together
The Colts just held a walkthrough practice Wednesday following the Monday night game, so the participation report was estimated for a normal practice. Even with that, however, there were eight players on the sideline — including six starters.
Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship (hip), linebacker Darius Leonard (ankle/shoulder), cornerback Xavier Rhodes (concussion), reserve safety Andrew Sendejo (concussion), right tackle Braden Smith (foot/thumb), defensive end Kemoko Turay (groin), reserve running back Jordan Wilkins (non-football illness) and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (ankle) did not participate.
There were reports Indianapolis plans to sign kicker Michael Badgley to the practice squad as insurance for Blankenship, but that move has not been officially announced.
“We brought in some kickers today to work them out,” Reich said. “We’ll evaluate as we go. There is a little something there (with Blankenship’s hip), but we’re just going to have to see at what level. I think we’ll make a determination here pretty soon on what we have to do. Just want to get all the information before we pull the trigger one way or the other.”
Rookie defensive end Kwity Paye (hamstring) was listed as limited, and defensive Isaac Rochell (illness) was listed as a full participant.