INDIANAPOLIS –Vick Ballard spent his entire college career proving himself and being good enough to get to the next level.
Now, the second-year back who led the Colts in rushing last year has no more ball to play this year.
Ballard suffered a non-contact ACL injury to his right knee Thursday in practice, and he will have season-ending surgery. He will go on injured reserve.
"We feel awful for Vick," said Chuck Pagano. "We all know Vick was headed toward having a fabulous year. We know and understand injuries are part of this game. We'll deal with it. No one quite handles adversity like this team."
Ballard played two years at Mississippi Gulf Coast College before spending his final two seasons at Mississippi State. From the SEC, he came to the NFL and led the Colts with 814 rushing yards in 2012.
Ballard started 12 games and in addition to two rushing touchdowns had 17 receptions for 152 yards, the most memorable being a 16-yard scoring reception in overtime at Tennessee that handed the Colts a 19-13 triumph.
Ballard was the starter in last Sunday's opener against Oakland. Ballard rushed for 63 yards and was perfect in six blitz pickups as the Colts earned a 21-17 win. He had 91 rushing yards and was 10-for-10 in pass protection in the Colts' playoff appearance at Baltimore last year.
"It's disheartening, a guy who works hard and busts his tail to be there, be one of the guys," said Robert Mathis, who like Ballard toiled off-Broadway in college (Alabama A&M) to star in the NFL. "You see him go down, it's disheartening. He's going to fight and be back when he can. It's tough, but you know it's the nature of the game. We have to pick up the pieces and keep rolling."
Indianapolis will bring rookie Kerwynn Williams off the practice squad to fill Ballard's spot. Williams, a seventh-round pick, was the club's leading preseason rusher with 169 yards. Ahmad Bradshaw and Donald Brown should get the majority of the work.
Bradshaw, a seven-year veteran who joined Indianapolis as a free agent, got his first work last week against Oakland. The two-time 1,000-yard rusher gained 26 yards in seven carries.
Bradshaw had 1,235 yards in 2010 and 1,015 last year and holds a 4.6 career average on 921 carries. Brown, a 2009 first-round pick, was the club's leading rusher in 2010 (497) and 2011 (645).
"It's bad news," said Bradshaw. "He's been working hard all year. It's just a freak accident. My heart goes out to Vick as hard as he's worked for this year. Our plan was to be that 1-2 punch.
"I'm set to go any time. That's what happens when this happens. I'll be ready."
Brown has found starting and playing time before, and he always has prepared meticulously to be ready in a blink.
"It happens in football. It's not the first time it's happened to somebody on this team. Unfortunately, it probably won't be the last time," said Brown. "It's a very tough injury. You hate to see somebody who puts in the work he did have something like that.
"It's next man up, we have to keep rolling. Since day one that's been the mindset. My preparation hasn't changed. I'm ready to roll, ready for Sunday. I'll be ready for any opportunity that comes my way."
INJURY UPDATE – Pagano said Dwayne Allen's (hip injury) availability for Sunday is undetermined.
"The injury he suffered is coming around, but it hasn't come around as quickly as we thought it would," said Pagano. "He's gotten better, but not to the point where he could get out there and do the things we needed him to do at full speed. It didn't make any sense to push the envelope. We'll run him around tomorrow to see where he's at and make a decision."
He said Pat Angerer (concussion) is ready, while David Reed (quadriceps) is out. Despite Angerer's progress, the linebacking corps remains thinner with Kavell Conner (ankle), Jerrell Freeman (quadriceps) and Erik Walden (hamstring) being questionable.
PRACTICE REPORT – Did not participate: TE-Dwayne Allen (hip), RB-Vick Ballard (knee), WR-David Reed (quadriceps); Limited participation: LB-Kavell Conner (ankle), LB-Jerrell Freeman (quadriceps); Full participation: LB-Pat Angerer (concussion), LB-Erik Walden (hamstring).
INJURY REPORT – Out: Ballard, Reed; Questionable: Allen, Conner, Freeman, Walden; Probable: Angerer.