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Colts’ Frank Reich: Hard not to notice Malik Hooker, Clayton Geathers

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The Colts will rely on youngsters like Malik Hooker (29)

WESTFIELD, Ind. – Frank Reich noticed the difference prior to Thursday morning’s walkthrough.

No longer were Malik Hooker and Clayton Geathers – the Indianapolis Colts’ projected safeties – relegated to working with trainers while completing their rehabilitation from knee surgeries. Each had gained medical clearance, been added to the active roster from the physically unable to perform list (PUP) and were reporting for actual work.

“Just those guys coming out for the walkthrough yesterday for the first time, just the physical presence,’’ Reich said Friday.

“You look over there, I’m just telling you as a quarterback, you notice it.’’

Hooker, the 2017 first-round pick, checks in at 6-1 and 212 pounds. Geathers, a 2015 fourth-rounder, is 6-2, 220.

They possess disparate skills, and could form an imposing tandem even though their personal travails kept them from being on the field at the same time in 2017.

Listen to Hooker.

“We’re going to bring energy,’’ he said. “Everybody knows what Clayton is going to bring. That’s the muscle of the group. It’s definitely a nice thing being able to have the guy go down in there and get his fingernails dirty here and there, and be able to play down in the box and in the middle of the field as well.

“Everybody knows I bring the ballhawk to the group, the guy that runs around. I feel like we’re capable of bringing this defense a whole new look this year.’’

Listen to Geathers.

“We know our skill sets,’’ he said. “We know each other. We know what we can do.’’

Hooker’s playmaking prowess at Ohio State contributed to the Colts selecting him with the 15th overall pick a year ago. In his final season with the Buckeyes before declaring early for the NFL draft, he finished third in the nation with seven interceptions and returned three for touchdowns.

“When you get drafted, they bring you in there because they feel like you fit a specific role,’’ he said. “I feel like my role is to go out there and be a playmaker. I did that last year.’’

Despite being slowed during his rookie camp while finishing his rehab from hip/groin surgery, Hooker started six of the first seven games. His three interceptions tied for the team lead.

The end came Oct. 22 when Hooker tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee against Jacksonville.

“At times you start to think, ‘Why me?’ You start feeling a little bad for yourself,’’ he said. “But then again, it’s patience. It’s part of the plan.

“I feel like there is nothing you won’t be put in that you can’t handle.’’

General manager Chris Ballard said during an appearance on 1070 The Fan’s The Dan Dakich Show it’s possible Hooker will be ready for the Aug. 25 preseason game against San Francisco.

Reich is eager to witness Hooker’s impact on the defense.

“You know as a quarterback when you’re playing a safety who has that knack and that ball production. The guys like Earl Thomas,’’ he said. “When you’re a quarterback, you can’t make a mistake. Any little mistake is going to be amplified when you’ve got a playmaker back there.’’

Geathers isn’t putting a timeframe on his return to the playing field.

“Taking it slowly,’’ he said. “We don’t want to rush things.’’

Geathers missed the entirety of the Colts’ offseason work after undergoing a knee procedure shortly after the 2017 season ended. That came on the heels of missing the first 10 games last year after needing neck surgery to repair a bulging disc in his neck.

“It’s been a journey,’’ Geathers said.

The last two injury-plagued seasons have taught him “to fight, to not give up. It’s easy to say that – don’t give up when you’re going through hard times and you have injuries back-to-back – but I’ve learned to be OK.’’

Vujnovich activated

The team also activated guard Jeremy Vujnovich off PUP. He has been sidelined all offseason with a calf injury.

Vujnovich started all 16 games at left guard a year ago and didn’t miss a snap. He’ll likely vie for backup duties in camp with rookie Braden Smith behind projected starters Quenton Nelson and Matt Slauson.

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