Eric Fisher’s debut with Colts getting near; Sunday vs. Rams possible

Indianapolis Colts

INDIANAPOLIS – There came a point, finally, when it didn’t dominate Eric Fisher’s every waking moment.

The torn Achilles tendon, that is.

It was sometime in July when the veteran left tackle’s rehabilitation from that devastating injury six months earlier advanced to actually doing, well, left tackle work.

“I started doing some o-line reps – just on air – moving around, changing direction,’’ Fisher said Wednesday. “Eventually confidence builds, man. A hard part of coming off a major injury is not thinking about your injury, but I trust the training staff and the coaches here put me in a good position.

“It’s actually nice moving around out there. (The Achilles is) not a thought.’’

Fisher was talking prior to Wednesday afternoon’s practice, before he was scheduled to “get some good practice reps,’’ according to Frank Reich.

Fisher saw limited work in the three practices leading up to last Sunday’s opener against Seattle, but that was deemed not enough for him to play.

Now, there’s a chance a second week of work will be sufficient for him to make his Colts’ debut Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams in Lucas Oil Stadium.

A chance.

“Feeling good,’’ Fisher said. “I’m doing everything I can in my power to be available for this team. I’ve progressed. I’ll leave my status and my role up to the coaches and training staff.

“But I’m doing my part to make sure I’m rehabbing as hard as I can, practicing as hard as I can and just being ready when my number’s called.’’

Reich has been enthused by Fisher’s rehab. On more than one occasion during training camp in Westfield, he’d watch Fisher working out with trainers, smile and jokingly toss a “Hey, you look ready to go,” encouragement in his direction.

He’s being more guarded as Fisher’s rehab approaches giving him the go-ahead to play.

“If he plays it’ll be a big step,’’ Reich said. “Going from what he went through last week to playing this week would be a big step.’’

Fisher’s rehab was interrupted when he spent 12 days on the COVID-19 list; had that not occurred he might have been ready for the Seattle opener.

Before signing off on having Fisher line up at left tackle against the Rams, Reich needs to see how he handles the position in practice.

“Just the conditioning side, the technique side, the quickness, kind of what he does,’’ he said. “He has to show that this week.’’

Fisher already has shown a lot.

His eighth season with the Kansas City Chiefs ended abruptly and painfully Jan. 24 at Arrowhead Stadium. In the fourth quarter of the Chiefs’ 38-24 win over the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship game, Fisher was going about his normal left tackle business – back-pedaling in protection against Bills’ end Mario Addison – on what would be a 12-yard Patrick Mahomes’ completion to Travis Kelce.

But while his teammates were celebrating the first down, Fisher was clutching his left ankle.

The play, he insisted, was “something that I’ve done thousands of times. That was just God’s plan for me. It brought me here. I didn’t think when it happened I’d be somewhere else in the country this fall, but things happen and adversity happens.

“It’s a matter of how you respond to it.’’

After the Chiefs terminated his contract, Fisher relocated to Indy. General manager Chris Ballard signed the two-time Pro Bowl selection to a two-year contract that essentially is a one-year deal worth a maximum of $9.4 million. The second year voids prior to the start of the 2022 league year.

“It was quite a wild ride, and I’ve been in one system with one coaching staff and one playbook for my entire career,’’ Fisher said. “Sometimes things just get changed up in life. You’ve got to shake it up a little bit and handle adversity as it comes.

“I can’t help that my Achilles ruptured. It is what it is. But I’m excited for the opportunity here in Indy and hope to make the most of it.’’

Fisher’s return would represent a boost for the Colts’ offensive line at any point, but especially on the heels of the opening loss. Carson Wentz’s pass protection against the Seahawks yielded three sacks and seven other quarterback hits. Left tackle Julién Davenport largely was ineffective and right tackle Braden Smith, who also struggled, emerged from the game with a foot injury.

That injury kept Smith out of Wednesday’s practice and threatens his availability for Sunday. All-Pro left guard Quenton Nelson also was held out of practice.

“We’re just in the evaluation process,’’ Reich said of Smith. “These foot injuries are a little complicated sometimes.

“I know if there’s any chance Braden can play, he’ll play. He’s a tough guy. We all know that about Braden.’’

Smith has appeared in 49 of a possible 52 games with 47 starts since being selected in the second round of the 2018 draft. He signed a four-year, $72 million extension in late July.

If Smith is unable to play Sunday, Matt Pryor, acquired in an Aug. 31 trade with Philadelphia, likely will step in.

Fisher’s possible return 238 days after tearing his Achilles might seem to be a bit quicker than normal with such an injury, but it would be within the time frame he initially anticipated.

“The trainers I worked with did a lot of research, and there was a lot of different timelines out there,’’ he said. “I knew that linemen had comeback six, seven, eight months. I knew it wasn’t out of the question. I just controlled my attitude every day, and here I am.

“As soon as that injury happened I set my mind to a certain goal. It wasn’t a timeline goal, but, ‘Hey, every single day I have an opportunity to recover from this.’ I worked my butt off. That’s how I approached it, and I’m pretty happy with where I’m at considering I’m 30 years old and going into year nine.’’

While the contract basically ties Fisher to the Colts for this season, Ballard mentioned during the offseason he’s hoping for a longer relationship if 2021 unfolds as expected.

“You would like for it to work out,’’ he said. “He’s 30 years old. He likes to play. We think he’s still got a lot left. I thought on tape last year he was playing his best football.’’

The best, though, might still be ahead.

“I take things on bluntly and reasonably,’’ Fisher said. “I definitely think I can return to the level of play (of 2020) if not take the next step in my career.’’

Listen to the Colts Blue Zone Podcast for weekly coverage and analysis of the Indianapolis Colts.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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