After Pushing Each Other During Rehab, Clayton Geathers And Malik Hooker Are Back

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WESTFIELD, Ind. — In a sense, it was a game of “anything you can do, I can do better.”

As Clayton Geathers and Malik Hooker continued to work their way back from knee injuries this offseason and into the start of training camp, they didn’t have any trouble keeping their competitive juices flowing.

Geathers underwent a minor knee operation earlier in the year, and showed good progress throughout his rehab sessions as he worked on sprinting and cutting to get every bit of his mobility back.

Not to be outdone, however, was the younger Hooker, who was returning from a torn ACL suffered last in October, about midway through his rookie season.

When Geathers would reach a certain milestone in his rehab work, Hooker was right there to match him. Whenever Hooker would turn a major corner, Geathers tried to push the envelope even harder on his end to keep his fellow safety on his toes.

Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that both Geathers and Hooker were simultaneously brought off the Active/Physically Unable to Peform list — where they had both started training camp — and moved to the active roster on Thursday afternoon.

"It’s been a positive process,” Geathers said on Friday. “We feed off each other. That’s what it was. We’re competitive, so we don’t want the other one to out-do the other one … so it’s been an experience, but now that we’re off PUP we just want to get back and get acclimated and earn our keep.”

The general expectation from both Geathers and Hooker is that they won’t be immediately thrown into the fire at actual practices, but they said their participation in walkthrough sessions alone the last two days has been more than enough to get a good idea where they fit in this new Colts defense.

Geathers, 26, has shown plenty of flashes of being an ideal strong safety; a thumper who isn’t afraid to get his jersey dirty and make plays both in the box and in the secondary.

But injuries have also at times hindered Geathers’ progress. In 2016, his first year as a full-time starter, Geathers would be placed on injured reserve after nine games due to a neck injury. He would miss the entire offseason workout program the following year and didn’t return until November; he played in five of the Colts’ final six games of the 2017 season.

After experiencing some discomfort in his knee towards the end of the year, Geathers elected to go ahead and undergo a procedure to clean it all up, which meant he would have to miss the offseason workout program once again.

“Coming off the neck, (I was) feeling good. You know, things happen,” Geathers said. “Just felt something, and just decided to get it cleaned up after the season and go from there. And now it’s just day-by-day and taking it one step at a time.”

Hooker has been on the same day-by-day plan since suffering a torn ACL in the Colts’ Week 7 matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars last year at Lucas Oil Stadium.

At the time, the 2017 first-round (15th-overall) pick was well on track to be a serious candidate for the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award, as he had become the first Colts rookie since 1984 to record an interception in three straight games.

The biggest part about both Geathers and Hooker being brought back to the active roster is that they simply can be healthy and on the field together for the first time in their careers. Hooker played through Week 7 before suffering his injury last year, while Geathers didn’t return from his neck injury until Week 12.

Hooker said he’s excited to combine with Geathers to bring “energy” to the Colts’ defense.

“Everybody knows what Clayton brings — that’s the muscle of the group; everybody knows that I bring them the ballhawk of the group and the guy that runs around,” he said. “So I feel like we’re capable of bringing this defense to a whole new look this year.”

Both safeties were immediately unsure if or when they might take part in practices or even preseason games, but the overall goal is to be completely ready to go by Sunday, Sept. 9, when the Colts play host to the Cincinnati Bengals in their 2018 regular season opener at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“Right now, you know, this is the best I’ve felt probably since the beginning of the season last year,” Hooker said. “So I honestly couldn’t say if I’m at 100 percent or a percentage at all, but I just know that every day that they want me to come in and do something, I’ll do whatever I can to try to get back out there for Game 1 or even preseason if they allow me to. I’ll do whatever they ask of me.”

“It’s been a long journey,” Geathers said. “To be off the PUP list, back, getting acclimated with the guys … like I was telling Malik, hearing our voices out there, moving around, that feels good.”

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