INDIANAPOLIS — With 12:15 left in the fourth quarter of Thursday night's preseason finale against the Cincinnati Bengals, Phillip Walker found Reece Fountain on a deep pass play down the right sideline. The 33-yard connection got the Indianapolis Colts, trailing 26-14 at the time, into Cincinnati territory at the 35-yard line.
But Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis challenged the ruling of a completed catch, and after review, the officials found Fountain was, indeed, unable to hang on to the ball long enough before the it fell out of his hands. Incomplete pass.
Fortunately for Fountain, that would be the only disappointment on a night when he and several teammates were fighting for jobs on the Colts' final 53-man roster — and "disappointment" meaning he still almost hauled in a really difficult catch.
"That last long pass — I needed to reel that one in," Fountain said with a smirk after the game. "It would've had me smiling, but it kind of jarred out when I hit the ground."
Fountain's positive attitude has served him well during his first NFL training camp and preseason. After all, his pathway to possibly making his first regular season roster hasn't always exactly been smooth, as he's at times had to deal with injuries and the ups and downs that just naturally come with trying to set a foundation as an NFL rookie.
The Colts' fifth-round (159th-overall) pick out of Northern Iowa in this year's NFL Draft, Fountain knew there would be plenty of opportunities at the wide receiver position when he first arrived at the Colts' West 56th Street facility. But by about a week into training camp, Fountain suffered a knee injury that would keep him off the field until Aug. 11, which meant he missed the team's first preseason game two days prior against the Seattle Seahawks.
Fountain spent the rest of camp and the preseason trying to make up for lost time. He was targeted twice but did not haul in any passes in the Colts' second preseason game against the Ravens; he earned his first NFL reception, a 14-yard play, in the third game against the 49ers; and on Thursday night, he really started to show his ability to create some separation, catching three passes for 32 yards in the Colts' 27-26 victory over the Bengals.
His first reception of the night came when the Colts were facing a 3rd and 10 to end the first quarter, as quarterback Jacoby Brissett connected with Fountain down the right side of the field for 16 yards and the first down; his second catch was a 10-yard reception from Walker midway through the second quarter; and his final reception was a six-yard play from Walker late in the second quarter.
In all, Fountain played 44 snaps on offense, but he also knew coming into the game he had to do well on special teams to help his case to win a roster spot. Fountain was happy with what he did with his 16 special teams opportunities against the Bengals, as well.
"It went pretty well," Fountain said. "I was really trying to focus on special teams and be sound on my assignments."
And now — Fountain waits.
The Colts and the rest of the NFL face a 4 p.m. ET deadline to cut their 90-man offseason/preseason rosters down to their 53-man regular season versions. Head coach Frank Reich has said the first three spots at wide receiver — T.Y. Hilton, Ryan Grant and Chester Rogers — are set in stone, but there could be as many as two or three other players at the position by Sept. 9, when the team opens up the regular season, also against the Bengals.
Fountain said he's not going to worry too much about the looming decisions being made by the team.
"I really have to leave that to the coaches," Fountain said. "I feel as if I've gotten better. Missing the first preseason game kind of set me back, but I can say that each game, I've improved. I'm just going to leave it up to the coaches."