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Malik Hooker Continues ‘Day-By-Day’ Approach As Repaired Knee Improves

Posted Apr 16, 2018

Malik Hooker was a top candidate for the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award last year when he suffered a season-ending knee injury. More than five months after surgery, the safety remains on the right track to return for the 2018 season for the Indianapolis Colts.

INDIANAPOLIS — It’s been about five months since a gruesome knee injury prematurely ended what was turning into a sensational rookie season by Malik Hooker.

Hooker entered the Colts’ Week 7 matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars a top midseason candidate for the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award, as he had collected 19 tackles, four passes defensed and three interceptions in Indy’s first six games of the year.

But in the second quarter of that game against the Jaguars, all those hopes were dashed when Hooker, who was chasing wide receiver Allen Hurns down the left sideline, was delivered a low, but legal, block by receiver Keelan Cole around the Indianapolis 40-yard line.

Hooker was able to get up and walk off the field under his own power, but the damage — a serious injury to his right ACL and his MCL — had been done. His rookie season was over, and surgery was next on the to-do list.

Hooker vowed to return even better once his knee was fully healed, and last week, he joined the rest of his teammates — as well their brand new coaching staff — for the start of the Colts’ 2018 offseason workout program.

The 15th-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft told Colts.com’s Matt Taylor that he isn’t 100 percent by any means, but that his rehab work has gone very well as he continues to work towards his goal of getting back on the field for the 2018 season.

“Things are going great right now,” Hooker said. “I’m currently five months, couple days out from surgery, so there’s nothing I can complain about right now. It’s just about building strength and getting ready for the season.”

The follow-up question on many people’s minds, then, would be, “When do you think you’ll be ready to go?” If other players’ recovery timelines from similar injuries are any indication, Hooker could be looking at, roughly, a 10 to 12-month timetable to get back to 100 percent participation, which could have him on the field as soon as training camp, and as late as Week 6 or 7 of the upcoming season.

But Hooker isn’t about to attach an exact return date to his recovery work — at least not publicly. At this point, he’s just encouraged by his daily progress.

“I mean, I really (haven’t) set no goal,” he said. “You know, as of now I’m just taking it day-by-day, trying to get better each day. That’s my goal; everyday try to outwork myself from yesterday.”

Hooker’s main goal at this point of the offseason is to master the Colts’ defensive schemes under new coordinator Matt Eberflus. But while the defensive front, as well as the cornerbacks and linebackers, will see their roles change significantly in the team’s switch to the 4-3, Hooker said his job in the back end doesn’t change all that much.

“At the end of the day, football’s football,” he said. “It’s a game of Xs and Os, and this coaching staff is doing a great job already of just preparing us for when the time comes to go out there and play football. You know, we’re spending a lot of time learning the new playbook and just getting to know each other, as well. So it’s nothin’ different.”

Hooker will be counted on to be a main building block for what is shaping into a very young — but very talented — Colts defensive secondary. Cornerback Quincy Wilson, a second-round pick last year, as well as fellow safeties Clayton Geathers and Matthias Farley look to join Hooker to form the nucleus of a hungry group looking to prove itself in 2018.

“I feel like that’s the best thing about being here,” Hooker said. “You know, we’re all considered young guys, and that’s why I feel like, being here, we’re a lot hungrier than other teams’ secondaries, ‘cause we’ve got a lot more to prove. And everybody thinks we’re young and inexperienced, but we’re willing to go out there and try to prove that we’re different.

“I feel like there’s not a guy that’s in this organization or program right now that’s not hungry,” Hooker continued. “Obviously everybody knows what we was last year, 4-12 — I mean, we was missing a few key guys; obviously our primetime quarterback, (Andrew) Luck, and a couple of other players, but you can’t use that as an excuse. Everybody’s got a mindset that that’s not the team we was last year, and we’re willing to show differently.”
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