INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – T.Y. Hilton has been here before: waiting, wondering, working with the training staff for hours on end.
Last December, it was two sprains to his right ankle that forced the Indianapolis Colts’ electric wideout into a play-without-practice routine. He was one of the NFL’s most productive players over the final five games, including the postseason, despite practicing just once, and then on a limited basis.
Now, the ankle has been replaced by a quadriceps injury.
Hilton aggravated the injury in the second quarter of Sunday’s 27-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons, and the team’s medical staff kept him out of the second half.
“(Doctors) said there was no need for me to go back out there and probably tear it,’’ he said after the game. “They shut me down.’’
Two days later and it’s uncertain if the Colts will have the services of Jacoby Brissett’s go-to guy when the Oakland Raiders visit Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday.
“It’s doin’ better today,’’ Hilton said Tuesday afternoon. “It’s a little sore, but it’s doin’ better.’’
Does he expect to practice Wednesday?
“Hopefully, if I can go,’’ he said. “If not, we’ll see Sunday.’’
Is he optimistic for Sunday?
“I don’t know,’’ he said. “It’s still Tuesday, so I’m just taking it day-by-day. Whatever happens, happens.’’
Is the overriding concern to make certain not to again aggravate the quad and perhaps make it a long-term issue?
“If I feel good, I’ll go,’’ Hilton said. “It’s coach’s call.’’
There’s every possibility Hilton will be held out of practice Wednesday and Thursday, and perhaps take some reps Friday to test the injury before a decision is made on his availability for Sunday.
The Colts are off to their first 2-1 start since 2013, and Hilton has been a major reason. His 20 receptions and four touchdowns are the most he’s had in the first three games of a season. The TDs, all in the red zone, are tied for the league lead.
To further highlight Hilton’s importance to Brissett and the Colts offense, consider he’s been targeted on 25 of Brissett’s 92 passes (27.2 percent). Only two other players have double-digit target totals: tight end Eric Ebron (11) and running back Nyheim Hines (10).
Defenses, coordinator Nick Sirianni said, “know we love to get T.Y. the ball. I mean, there’s no secret. We want to throw 13 the ball.’’
Perhaps Hilton’s quad quiets down and allows him to play against the Raiders. Easily lost in the mountain of stats – four Pro Bowls, 8,292 yards, 44 touchdown catches – is his durability. He’s missed just four of a possible 123 games. Two of those games came last season: weeks 5-6 when Hilton was out with chest and hamstring injuries.
If Hilton is unable to play, Sirianni will have to lean heavy on what once was a deep receivers corps. In the season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, free-agent acquisition Devin Funchess suffered a broken left clavicle that landed him on the injured reserve list for at least eight weeks.
Thus far, the production from wideouts not named T.Y. Hilton has been spotty. Rookie Parris Campbell has five catches, 37 yards and one TD; Deon Cain three catches for 45 yards; Chester Rogers three catches for 24 yards and Zach Pascal two receptions for 53 yards and one TD.
With T.Y. in the lineup, Sirianni and Frank Reich have been adept at getting everyone involved in the passing game. Twelve players have at least one catch. In 2018 and with Andrew Luck under center, the Colts tied an NFL record by having 13 different players catch at least one TD.
“Everything we do is to try make us hard to defend,’’ Sirianni said. “The more you get guys involved, the harder we are to defend because you can’t key in on somebody.
“Tribute to Chris Ballard and his staff. We have a lot of guys that can make plays and that are talented enough to make plays and are smart enough to make plays and be in the right positions.’’
Andrew Luck retired Aug. 24, but hasn’t severed ties with his former teammates.
Luck occasionally has reached out to his successor, Brissett. His advice?
“Just have fun with it,’’ Brissett said.
Luck developed tight relationships with tight end Jack Doyle and Hilton and has kept in touch with both while keeping up on the Colts’ season.
“We talk mostly on Sundays before the game and after the game,’’ Hilton said. “He’s always watching. It’s cool just to know he’s still watching and he’s doing OK.’’
What’s up with Luck?
“He’s just probably living his life,’’ Hilton said with a smile.
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