Colts’ Robert Turbin back and ‘ready to roll’
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Normalcy returned for Robert Turbin.
It was Monday morning, so the veteran running back crawled out of bed at 5:30 and so he could get to the Indianapolis Colts’ Farm Bureau Football Center by 6. And yes, his security code still worked.
“I came in and I was ready to go,’’ Turbin said. “I got in a workout.’’
As players emerged from meetings and the trainer’s room, they noticed Turbin at his corner of the locker room. Rookie running back Jordan Wilkins offered a firm hug. So did tight end Jack Doyle.
But now what?
“I feel good, ready to roll,’’ Turbin said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen just yet, but whatever I’m asked to do I’m ready to do.’’
Turbin was back at work for the first time since the end of the preseason when he began serving a four-week suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drugs program. The team has a one-week roster exemption that allows Turbin to practice while also giving the Colts an opportunity to evaluate his game-ready condition after a month away from the complex.
The fact the Colts are in short-week mode – lose to Houston in overtime Sunday followed by Thursday’s road test with New England – only complicates the decision-making process.
“It’s being talked about right now and obviously we’ll have to make a pretty quick decision,’’ Frank Reich said.
If Turbin is activated for the Patriots, his play time would be closely monitored and likely reserved for specific situations.
“A very specific role that you feel that player could fill and get 5 or 10 plays and take a little bit of the load,’’ Reich said. “Or it could be something that guy does specifically really well and you know he does really well, so, ‘Hey, let’s at least use him for that.’’’
That almost assuredly would be in short-yardage and goal-line situations. Over the last two seasons, Turbin was an NFL-best 12-for-12 at converting third-and-1. He was 5-for-5 in 2016 and 7-for-7 in ‘17 before suffering a season-ending injury to his left elbow Oct. 16 against the Tennessee Titans.
Turbin was allowed to go through the Colts’ offseason work and training camp, but it’s anyone’s guess how quickly he can get up to speed for game action. He suffered an ankle injury in the preseason opener at Seattle that would limit him to a total of 31 offensive snaps against the Seahawks and Cincinnati. He rushed 11 times for 39 yards.
To prepare for his return to the Colts, Turbin spent much of the past month on the West Coast, working out at Irvington H.S. in Fremont, Cal. He followed his normal offseason routine of training in pads and helmet to simulate a regular practice, and made certain to have others on the field with him.
“I got a chance to go back to my high school and run around with those guys a little bit,’’ Turbin said. “Obviously I didn’t hit those guys. I didn’t want to put anybody on the turf.
“But it was good just to get the reactive part of it. Obviously playing the running back position is a lot of reaction. Just making moves off guys, making cuts, running routes against coverage.’’
If he’s cleared to play against the Patriots, Turbin realizes conditioning will be an issue.
“It’s really hard to mimic actually playing football,’’ he said. “That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to get on the field with some of those guys.
“I feel like if I had to play, I could play.’’
There’s no question the Colts need help at running back. Rookies Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines have combined to average 3.5 yards on 54 attempts. Jeremy McNichols was added to the active roster from the practice squad Friday and saw his first action as a Colt Sunday against Houston.
Marlon Mack is practicing on a limited basis, but hasn’t returned since aggravating a hamstring injury in week 2 at Washington.
The Colts’ running game is one of the league’s worst: 29th in yards per game (72.0) and 26th in yards per attempt (3.6).
Reich insisted Mack’s return hinges on “trusting the player to say, ‘Hey, I’m ready to go. I’m 100 percent and I can let this thing rip. I have no hesitation.’
“Because of the setback we had, I think after going through that it’s pretty crucial that a player is just all in and there is no hesitation and no doubt in his mind.’’
Reich was unable to offer an update on the status of wideout T.Y. Hilton (chest/hamstring) for Thursday’s game. Also, cornerback Kenny Moore II is in the NFL’s concussion protocol.
Rookie linebacker Darius Leonard and cornerback Nate Hairston were wearing a protective boot on their left ankle Monday.
Don’t look now, but the Colts possess the NFL’s second-most productive sack attack. It’s also one on an early-season record pace.
The defense has generated 17 sacks in four games. Only the Chicago Bears (18) have more. The 17 sacks are a team record for the first four games of a season. The previous mark of 16 was set by the 1983 Baltimore Colts.
Seven different players have contributed to the sack attack. Leonard and Margus Hunt are tied for 6th in the NFL with 4 sacks each.
The defense also has 31 tackles for loss, which is tied with the 2015 Rams for the most in the NFL through the first four games of a season since 1994.