INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts will be without three front-line players, but might get Jonathan Taylor back for the first time since mid-December for an early-season showdown with rival Tennessee.
Coach Shane Steichen on Friday ruled out left tackle Bernhard Raimann (concussion), defensive end Kwity Paye (concussion) and linebacker Shaquille Leonard (groin) for Sunday’s meeting with the Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Center Ryan Kelly has been cleared from the NFL’s concussion protocol – he has missed the past two games – and will return to the offense.
The availability of Taylor likely won’t be determined until Saturday.
The NFL’s 2021 rushing champion returned to practice this week after missing the first four games while on the reserve-physically unable to perform list. Taylor was designated to return to practice, but still must be added to the active roster.
“We’ll see,’’ Steichen said. “We’ll see.’’
Taylor last practiced Dec. 15 and made his last appearance in a game two days later at Minnesota. After being on the field for just two plays, he exited the game because of a lingering injury to his right ankle. He subsequently was placed on the season-ending injured reserve list.
Steichen is confident Taylor has had enough exposure to his offense from attending meetings during the offseason and much of training camp; he hadn’t been on the field with his teammates until this week. The primary issue will be how quickly Taylor is able to regain his football condition.
He went through a walkthrough Wednesday and was a full participant Thursday and Friday. Taylor is listed questionable for Sunday.
“Shoot, he looked good,’’ Steichen said. “Conditioning-wise, he looked good.
“Again, it’s been a while since he’s been out there, but he looked good the last couple of days and we’ll make that decision when the game comes around.’’
One issue to keep in mind: Taylor hasn’t absorbed any contact since mid-December.
“He hasn’t taken a hit, so that will be new,’’ Steichen said. “If he plays on Sunday, obviously first time getting hit in a while.
“But again, he did a good job running the football, seeing the holes. Shoot, he’s a veteran player. He’s played a lot of football and shoot, he looked good.’’
Another concern is Taylor’s lack of work with rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson. Running backs like to receive the handoff a certain way, and that’s complicated by the Colts’ use of zone-read options between Richardson and the backs.
“We got good work in the past couple of days with those guys,’’ Steichen said. “Obviously, with anything if you’re under center handing the ball off, it’s handing the ball off.
“But the exchange stuff, the zone-read stuff, we worked really hard at it the last two days. I feel good about it.’’
Richardson insisted it doesn’t take long to get comfortable with any new back.
“It’s pretty simple, just handing the ball off, knowing where to step,’’ he said. “It’s also learning the running back; also learning how he wants the ball given to him, how he wants the passes thrown to him.
“Maybe a couple of days. Maybe.’’
When Taylor returns – Sunday or the following week at Jacksonville – he likely will share the workload with Zack Moss. In his three starts this season, Moss has piled up a team-high 280 yards on 66 attempts.
Kelly returns after missing the previous two games against the Los Angeles Rams and Baltimore Ravens. Wesley French replaced him.
“French has done a hell of a job while he’s stepped in,’’ Steichen said, “but to get Ryan Kelly back, it’s going to be big for the offensive line on Sunday.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter/X at @mchappell51.