Colts’ notebook: Marlon Mack ‘still trying to get the wheels right’

Sports

Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack runs a drill during practice at the NFL team’s football training camp in Westfield, Ind., Wednesday, July 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

WESTFIELD – Marlon Mack isn’t quite there, at least not yet.

He looks the part of quick, agile, powerful running back as the Indianapolis Colts’ training camp unfolds at Grand Park Sports Campus. He bounces through the ladder drill, shows off crisp cuts as position coach Scottie Montgomery instructs backs to cut this way or that way in the blink of an eye, and is forceful during 11-on-11 drills.

“He’s looked really good these last few days,’’ offensive coordinator Marcus Brady said Friday. “He’s had some nice explosive plays. He’s just fun to watch.

“Actually, I have not noticed the injury. To me, it looks like he’s full go.’’

Again, not quite yet.

“Still trying to get the wheels right,’’ Mack said.

The wheel is question is the right one.

Mack saw his fourth season with the Indianapolis Colts end almost before it began. The team’s leading rusher in 2019 ruptured his right Achilles tendon in the second quarter of the 2020 season opener at Jacksonville.

Surgery was followed by exhaustive rehab in Indy – he wanted to remain around the team and be part of the team, not spend time at home alone – and that methodical process of regaining full use and confidence in the repaired Achilles.

Mack has no limitations during practice, other than those he places on himself. What are the remaining issues?

“I’d say my body and just getting my legs right,’’ he said. “Still each day feel this and that, but just going out there and getting used to guys flowing around, getting used to practice with guys because I was with bags in the summer. Now I’m going with guys who are moving 100% and not being stationary.

“But it’s getting better each day, I would say that for sure. I’m getting more comfortable. I feel great.’’

He encountered something of a hurdle during his offseason work when it came time to aggressively plant his right leg and cut. The Achilles was ready, but his mind wasn’t quite there yet.

“It was kind of scary to do coming off an injury like that,’’ Mack said. “You sort of short-stab it. But once you get comfortable with it, it’s easy after that. It took a week or two, I would say. Just avoiding it and not really putting my leg out there.’’

Gradually, Mack’s confidence is returning. He’s following Montgomery’s marching orders of “just keep stacking each day.’’

“I’ve got confidence in myself,’’ he said. “I see myself in the agility stuff and I can feel it, but just doing it and feeling it is something to help you.’’

Once Mack is back to being Mack, the Colts can lean on a pair of 1,000-yard rushers. He led the team with 908 yards in 2018, then erupted with a career-best 1,091 in ’19.

When Mack suffered the season-ending injury in last year’s opener, rookie Jonathan Taylor took over and finished third in the league with 1,169 yards.

Mack’s future with the team that selected him in the fourth round of the 2017 draft was in doubt; the injury occurred during his contract year. However, the Colts re-signed him to a one-year, $2 million contract.

“I was just hoping somebody gave me a chance again because I want to go out there and show what I can do,’’ Mack said. “When Indy did, I was like, ‘I’ve got to go back and show what I did (in ’19).’’

Mack isn’t concerned how coach Frank Reich will divvy up the carries in a deep backfield that includes Taylor, Nyheim Hines, and Jordan Wilkins.

“I don’t know, but I know he’ll do it because he always (does) it,’’ Mack said. “He’s going to take care of everybody. That’s one thing I’m not worried about because once I get my chance, I know I’m going to do what I got to go.’’

He realizes Taylor is the unquestioned feature back.

“For sure. It don’t matter to me,’’ Mack said. “We’re going to get those carries. We’re going to spread it out and have fun with it.’’

Kicking competition

Rodrigo Blankenship is the incumbent and the placekicking job undoubtedly is his to lose. But competition was added when the Colts signed Eddy Pineiro, and that competition was on display Friday.

Blankenship and Pineiro were perfect on three kicks from 33, 42 and 50 yards.

Break it up

A skirmish broke out that involved wideout Michael Pittman Jr. and safety Ibraheim Campbell. Pittman seemed to get the better of it when he slammed Campbell to the ground before teammates separated them.

Brady was busy talking with the quarterbacks and only saw the end of the scuffle.

“I saw it late,’’ he said. “I saw whoever it was with, (Pittman) slammed somebody.

“You like to see the intensity, but at the same time we’re all on the same team so we have to protect our guys. You don’t want to see that too much.’’

Defensive highlight

Takeaways are a defensive objective this season – every season for that matter – and Bobby Okereke came up with a big one Friday. During the final team portion of practice, the veteran linebacker stepped in front of a Jacob Eason pass, intercepted it and returned it for what would have been a touchdown.

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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