INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – In their biggest game of the season, the Indianapolis Colts anticipate the return of the anchor of their offensive line.
Center Ryan Kelly, who missed Sunday’s play-in victory at Tennessee with a neck injury, is expected to return to practice and be in the lineup for Saturday’s first-round playoff game at Houston.
“I feel good,” Kelly said Wednesday.
Is he ready to return to the lineup?
“Yep,” he said without hesitation.
Kelly sustained a neck injury in the second quarter of the Dec. 23 win over the New York Giants that resulted in a loss of strength in his right arm. He was uncertain of the necessary rehabilitation time, but insisted everything hinged on him regaining his strength. He also indicated he would play with a “horse collar” to keep his neck “in the same spot and not move around too much.
“Other than that, I feel well.”
Kelly worked with the rehab staff last week, then amped up his activity in a Tuesday walk-through. Since much of the concern was Kelly regaining full strength in his arm, he endured “a ton of reps.”
“I still snapped it the way I would be in the game. It was a big test to do that 70-80 times in a walk-through just to make sure I didn’t get fatigued. I felt good doing that.
“Obviously you can’t replicate the shots you’re going to take to your head (in a game), but just got to test my strength is there. I’ll be fine.”
It’s been a difficult season for the 2016 first-round draft pick. Kelly missed games three games, including the week 14 meeting with the Texans in Houston, after spraining a ligament in his left knee.
Kelly’s return should be a significant boost as the Colts return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. They face a Houston defense that ranks 12th in fewest yards allowed and is tied for 4th in scoring.
The Texans feature premier pass-rush threats in J.J. Watt (16 sacks, second in the NFL) and Jadeveon Clowney (9 sacks). Houston maximizes Clowney’s disruptive skills by moving him around in the formation, often putting him over the center.
“They really like to do that just to cause disruption,” Kelly said. “They’re a good defense; top ten in the league in pretty much every category.”
Kelly has been part of a Colts’ offensive line that has established itself as one of the NFL’s top units. It has allowed a league-low 18 sacks. Also, Marlon Mack has rushed for at least 100 yards four times, including a 25-carry, 119-yard outing Sunday against the Titans. The last Colt running back to eclipse the 100-yard barrier at least four times in a season was Joseph Addai in 2007.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51