INDIANAPOLIS – The Jonathan Taylor return is nearing.
Shane Steichen said on Monday that Taylor will practice on Wednesday, which will be the running back’s first time on a Colts practice and/or game field in the 2023 year.
“He’ll be back with the team,” Steichen said of Taylor on Monday. “He’s practicing Wednesday. He’ll be out there with us. Had great conversations with him. He’s super excited to be back with his teammates and look forward to having him.”
With this news, the Colts will open up their 21-day window for Taylor to evaluate him in practice settings, and have the possibility of him playing in a game, as early as Sunday. Taylor still doesn’t count to the 53-man roster, even with his return to practice. Because Taylor is not yet on the 53-man roster, he won’t show up on this week’s injury/practice participation report.
It should be noted a few hours after Steichen met the media, the Colts announced they would no longer have their normal Wednesday practice this week. They’ll have a walk-through instead. So that would leave only 2 practices this week (Thursday and Friday) for Taylor in his return.
Monday’s news means the Colts now have 21 days to make a 2023 decision on Taylor’s status. Taylor is eligible to practice starting Wednesday. That’s the case for the next 21 days. At any point, the Colts can elevate Taylor to the 53-man roster, which would then make him eligible for a game.
Despite Taylor missing the last 50-some practices the Colts have had, dating back to mid-December of last year, Steichen isn’t ruling the fourth-year running back out for Sunday’s game vs. the Titans.
“He’s in good shape conditioning wise,” Steichen said of observing Taylor’s morning workouts as of late.
“Obviously putting on the pads and practicing is a different deal. I know it’s been a long time since he’s played football. We’ll see how practice goes this week to see where he’s at physically from putting the pads on and we will go from there.”
Steichen wouldn’t share much on what he needs to see from Taylor in practice to deem if he could play on Sunday, but did add: “If (Taylor) feels good, we’ll rotate him, if he’s ready to go.”
Some obvious questions remain with the Taylor situation.
-For one, where is Taylor’s health/football shape? This is a guy who has hardly ever missed any game and/or practice time in college and the NFL. But now he’s missed more than 50 straight Colts practices, with his last one coming December 15, 2022. If Zack Moss needed two weeks to ramp things back up after missing a month due to a broken arm in camp, how long will Taylor need? Remember, Taylor was extremely protective of his injury situation last year, often having a start/stop feel to practicing, playing in games along with missing time.
-Another is how does Taylor feel about how the last few months have played out for him and the Colts? Things are clearly icy. The last time Taylor spoke to the media was in mid-June, and his displeasure then was obvious, albeit, relatively cordial. Is this relationship still one that has the ability to be repaired, or is Taylor just showing up to not get fined (Marshawn Lynch voice)?
-Lastly, where are we at with the Taylor trade request and the Colts granting him the ability to seek that back in August? Has that idea simmered or is it something still on the table with the NFL trade deadline coming at the end of this month? Steichen talked to Taylor on Monday and sounded very positive about what he heard from the 24-year-old running back.
If Taylor does return soon, a 3-man running trio of Taylor, Zack Moss and Anthony Richardson offers some definite intrigue in play design and skillsets.
“He’s a big-time player,” Steichen said of Taylor on Monday. “He’s explosive. You know he can hit the home runs. When he sees the hole, that explosive breakaway speed, great vision power, obviously one of the top backs in this league, without a doubt, so excited to get him back.”
“You got three guys (Taylor, Moss and Richardson) that are really good runners. And then there can be some times where you have plays where Anthony’s not always running zone reads, you just hand the ball off to 28 and Zach and go play ball.”
Taylor needs to log 6 games of action this season in order to earn an accrued season, thus being able to hit free agency next spring. So, him playing for the Colts in 2023 still remains the most likely option.
But with how this situation has played out it is anyone’s guess as to what will happen in Taylor’s return to some practice action. Remember, Taylor has been paid his normal salary (he’s due $4.3 million in 2023) while on the physically unable to perform list. If the Colts were to start fining Taylor, a weekly fine would be around $240,000. With Wednesday’s news, that appears very unlikely.
Here are the upcoming games for the Colts: Titans (10/8), at Jaguars (10/15), Browns (10/22), Saints (10/29). The NFL trade deadline is October 31st.
Along with the Taylor headline, here are some other news items from Steichen’s Monday presser:
- Late in Sunday’s loss to the Rams, second-year cornerback Dallis Flowers suffered an Achilles injury that will end his 2023 season. Shane Steichen announced that on Monday. This is a big blow to an already inexperienced and unproven Colts cornerback room. And it’s a huge bummer for Flowers, who was showing some early promise at a position without any clear picture moving forward. Flowers was playing every snap as an outside cornerback, no matter the personnel grouping, along with serving the team’s kick returner. With Flowers done for the season, rookie JuJu Brents is now an every snap guy, rising to that 2nd corner spot (Kenny Moore is the top corner). Look for 7th round pick Jaylon Jones and opening-day starter Darrell Baker Jr. to eat up the 3rd corner snaps. Jones is the one who filled in for Flowers late on Sunday, as Baker Jr. was a healthy scratch for a second straight week, following his poor Week 2 play which led to a benching. Remember, 5th round pick Darius Rush was cut at the end of the preseason. He’s currently on the Chiefs practice squad. We will see if the Colts opt to look into the free agent cornerback market, although that’s something they’ve shied away from doing, opting rather for the youth movement.
- The Colts now have 3 trench starters in the concussion protocol. Defensive end Kwity Paye joins LT-Bernhard Raimann and C-Ryan Kelly (concussion protocol) in it after developing concussion-like symptoms following Sunday’s loss to the Rams. Kelly is now in his third week of dealing with a concussion, as he had a setback in progressing through the protocol following his participation in consecutive practices last Wednesday and Thursday. Raimann started developing his own concussion symptoms after last Thursday’s practice.
- Jelani Woods (hamstring) is eligible to return from injured reserve this week, but Shane Steichen said the second-year tight end remains on injured reserve. The tight end position has rotated a lot this season without a true No. 1 consistent presence. Woods battled a hamstring injury throughout the offseason, including a training camp setback.
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