INDIANAPOLIS – With the NFL season now in the back-half of December, the Colts got some good injury news at their first practice of the week.
Sunday will bring a quick rematch with the Texans (4-9), as Houston comes to Lucas Oil Stadium in Week 15 at 1:00 PM.
What did we learn from the Colts (9-4) on Wednesday?
- Frank Reich gave one of the more exciting injury updates of his head coaching career on Wednesday when he said punter Rigoberto Sanchez would practice at the first session of the week. Sanchez does have a chance to play this Sunday, which is amazing when you consider the young punter had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor just two weeks ago (Tuesday, December 1st). Now, the Colts once again protected fill-in punter Ryan Allen on the practice squad this week. To have Allen punt again on Sunday though, the Colts would have to sign him to the 53-man roster because he’s already used his two call-ups in 2020. “We are not going to rush it and want to make sure he’s right,” Frank Reich said of Sanchez on Wednesday. “We are not going to push him past where he’s ready to go. We will rely on him, the doctors and the trainers and take it day-by-day and see how he does.”
- Sanchez met the media after his first practice back on Wednesday. The 26-year-old did not reveal where his cancer was, but made it clear that the tumor did not spread and the doctors have given him indications that he could be cancer free. Sanchez originally felt something a bit off during the Wednesday practice before Thanksgiving (November 25th). Following a punting session, and leading into a kickoff segment, Sanchez told assistant special teams coordinator Frank Ross that something didn’t feel totally right with him physically. Sanchez eventually told the team’s medical staff, and testing/MRIs followed that revealed the need to have surgery (which he did on December 1st). But Sanchez knew he was first going to suit up and play in that Sunday’s matchup against the Titans. “I wasn’t going to do that to my team,” Sanchez said of not playing against the Titans. “It’s all about the team. At the end of the day, I don’t think they would have been able to get a punter in (and through COVID-19 protocols) in time. It wasn’t going to be any worse. That was already worse case scenario. I was going to fight through the pain, whatever it was. No need to make it a bigger deal than it is. I was going to get surgery Tuesday already so I asked the doctor if it could get any worse and he said no. So I was going to play, do it for my brothers. They need me.” Sanchez added he was overwhelmed by the amount of people who reached out to him to offer their support. Leukemia survivor Chuck Pagano, who coached Sanchez in 2017, was among those that connected.
- Both the Colts and Philip Rivers believed since the spring that this would be a two-year marriage (even though the contract was just for one year). Rivers, who turned 39 last week, still sounds like a guy wanting to play two years, with a decision on that coming in the new year. “It really hasn’t changed,” Rivers said of his spring mindset of playing more than one season still holding true. “I’ll go back to one of the first interviews we had, I certainly hoped it was going to be longer than one year. To say I’ve given any thought to next season would not be telling the truth…Next year, and those things will come when the time is right.” From a passion and playing standpoint, those are areas that have Rivers still itching to play longer. “As long as I woke up with the passion still to do it,” Rivers added on Wednesday. “I never wanted to wake up and say, ‘I’m just going to play, just to play, or go to work and not really enjoy the process. I do still enjoy the process. And then the other thought I had in the last 5 years knowing that I had been on the back nine, is I don’t want to hang on. I don’t ever want to be the one that is just hanging on, ‘Maybe I can get another year. Maybe I can get another year just to hang on.’ All those things would still apply. But I still feel I can check the box on those. I don’t feel like I’m hanging on and I do feel like I can still contribute, and I do wake up with a passion for the process. All those things are still in-tact at this point.”
- We’ve shared a lot of tidbits recently about the Colts propensity to go for it on 4th down. Reich said recently he had a long talk with Jim Irsay and the Owner’s perspective has actually played into the head coach’s decision-making in games a couple of times this year. Another aspect of the 4th down aggressiveness is planning within drives. Philip Rivers mentioned on Wednesday that sometimes Reich will tell the QB on a 3rd down that the Colts are planning to go for it on 4th down, so that will influence the decision making for the quarterback in trying to be prudent, knowing the offense has an extra down.
- I’m sure everyone saw the huge blitz pick-up by Jonathan Taylor on a 23-yard completion to Michael Pittman on Sunday. Frank Reich loved it: “That was a play where you don’t have time to flinch,” Reich said on Wednesday. “Jonathan sees it, recognizes it. You can’t wonder for a split second if you need to go or not go. ‘Can I go around Philip this way or do I need to abort my fake right now?’ He knew in an instance that he had to abort his fake and had to get there. Philip slides in the pocket a little bit and ends up making a 20-yard play to (Michael) Pittman. That easily could have been disastrous. Here, you have a running back who has not only taken a lot of pride in the identification process but in the technique and fundamentals that it takes to get that thing picked up clean.” With an extremely impressive 31 catches on 32 targets for Taylor in his rookie season, he’s definitely checking the unknown box of his ability to play on passing downs.
- More good news on the injury front with both CB-Xavier Rhodes (knee) and LB-Darius Leonard (back) practicing FULL on Wednesday.
- You make the catch of the year and awards will come your way. Kenny Moore took home AFC Defensive Player of the Week, thanks to that interception (and also a game-clinching forced fumble in the 4th quarter against the Raiders). “That’s indicative of who he is a person and a player,” Frank Reich said of Moore on Wednesday. “You really first see that on the practice field. You talk to any of our guys about how hard he practices and I’m just glad it shows up in the games, and people recognize his playmaking ability and the consistency of his play.” Moore and Xavier Rhodes (Week 3) are the two Colts defenders to take home this award in 2020.
- The Colts will practice again on Thursday and Friday afternoon, with a Saturday morning walk-through ahead of Sunday’s 1:00 PM home kick against the Texans.
Wednesday Injury Report
-DNP: QB-Philip Rivers (toe), Anthony Castonzo (knee), TE-Mo Alie-Cox (knee), DL-Denico Autry (rest), TE-Trey Burton (rest), DE-Justin Houston (rest)
Bowen Analysis: Rivers has missed the last 4 Wednesday practices as the Colts continue to manage that pain. Frank Reich said Castonzo came out of the Raiders game fine.
-FULL: LB-Darius Leonard (back), CB-Xavier Rhodes (knee), P-Rigoberto Sanchez (illness), DE-Kemoko Turay (ankle)
Bowen Analysis: Great news on this entire quartet. Leonard and Rhodes didn’t finish the game in Las Vegas.