INDIANAPOLIS --- Colts running back Vick Ballard saw the flock of reporters coming to his locker Thursday, ahead of Saturday's second preseason game. He knew the line of questioning that was coming. That's why his answers weren't exactly enthusiastic.
"That's exactly how I feel," said Ballard, when asked if his tone was about being tired of talking about the injuries and just wanting to play. "That's why all my responses right now are kind of really light."
That's all Ballard has been doing since the first game of the regular season in 2013 against the Oakland Raiders. A torn ACL followed. A ruptured Achilles in the first week of training camp last year after that, but after almost 24 months of rehab, Ballard will likely finally play on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf, barring a setback.
"I feel pretty confident," said Ballard about the second preseason game against Chicago, after sitting out at Philadelphia Sunday with a tweaked hamstring. "It's exciting, but I still want to be smart about everything. I've been smart thus far, and it's been working out pretty decent for me."
The next three weeks are critical for Ballard, trying to prove he's a viable option for the final 53-man roster, after almost two consecutive seasons injured.
"It's huge," said Head Coach Chuck Pagano Thursday. "He is a great, great teammate and just a warrior. All that he has been through, it is very important, but it's great to have him out there...Serious competition there, so it's important."
"He is such a warrior," said Andrew Luck Thursday. "He just does everything right. He's not a good teammate, a great teammate. Seeing him out on the practice field brings great memories of playing together rookie year and him just having clutch plays. He blocks like Frank Gore. He gets up there and hits people. He is a stud."
Ballard admits it helps that his teammates are excited to see him back out there. Chuck Pagano let him break the team huddle after Thursday morning's walk-through, foreshadowing Ballard's long-awaited return.
"Coach P let me break the huddle down today, so that was a great feeling for me," said Ballard. "Those are the type of things that kept me going. At times, I used to lay in the bed and just question it all. I would just think of me breaking the huddle down at the end of practice and stuff like that."
Ballard said he's trying to approach it like any other game, but that seems extremely difficult, given the two-year grind to get to this point, since that season-opening game in 2013 against the Raiders.
"It's not a season opener, but it's the first time we're playing at Lucas Oil since last year, so it'll be pretty big for everybody."
Maybe most of all for Ballard...