INDIANAPOLIS — Anthony Walker isn't going to let another injury derail the start of his season.
Last year, as a rookie, the fifth-round pick suffered a hamstring injury in the Indianapolis Colts' season opener against the Los Angeles Rams, and would end up missing six of the next seven games as he worked his way back to the field.
Walker eventually found a bit of a rhythm, however, and had earned the starting job at inside linebacker for the final two games of the season, setting him up nicely heading into an offseason full of change for the entire organization.
By the start of training camp this year, Walker was once again engrained with the first-team defense, this time as its MIKE linebacker in the team's new 4-3 base defensive scheme.
But by July 31, just a week into camp, Walker had suffered a painful groin injury, and head coach Frank Reich said it was "going to be a few weeks" before he could return. Once again, Walker had to sit off to the side while the rest of his teammates put in work for the remainder of training camp — and not to mention all four preseason games.
But on Monday, with the team now officially beginning preparations for this Sunday's Week 1 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, No. 50 was back out on the field for the first time in more than a month.
He says he's officially good to go for Sunday's season opener.
"I wouldn't have taken the field if I wasn't 100 percent ready to go," Walker told Colts.com after Monday's practice, asked if he had any restrictions heading into Week 1. "So at this point I'm on the field, so I'm ready to go. No matter what the percentage is, if I step on the field, I've gotta be ready. The other team isn't going to be (like), 'Oh, what percentage are you?' They're going to play, so we have to be ready to play as well. And that's what it's about right now, so I'm full-go right now."
With Walker injured the past few weeks, the Colts have had to mostly rely on Skai Moore and Zaire Franklin to take over the duties at MIKE linebacker. Walker said he's been impressed with the work put in by the two rookies, and has tried to be a resource to them whenever possible.
"They played great throughout the preseason," Walker said. "They got better each week, which is what it's all about — just getting better each day, each game, taking those game reps, mental reps and just getting better. I was happy to see those guys go out there and work."
It's unclear whether Walker or Moore will get the start on Sunday vs. the Bengals — Walker is listed as the starting MIKE linebacker on the team's unofficial depth chart, but, of course, he hasn't played in a game setting since Week 17 of last season. No matter what role he plays to open up this season, however, Walker said he's hoping to reap the benefits of all the mental reps he's put in over the past month.
"Film, in the meeting room with those guys, walkthroughs, whatever — I'm at a distance looking at it, but just seeing those guys and seeing how they can align better or do something better and applying it to my game as well," Walker said. "So that's what I was able to do at that point; that's what I was able to focus on.
"It was exciting, man, just to be back out there with my teammates," Walker said about returning to practice on Monday. "I've just taken it one day at a time to get better, and when it comes to Week 1, we've gotta come out and just gotta build each day to get ready for the game on Sunday."