After placing Carson Wentz on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday, the Colts are moving forward with Sam Ehlinger as their starting quarterback this week – but there's a chance Wentz could still play Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders.
The earliest Wentz could be activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list is Sunday, head coach Frank Reich said, leaving open the possibility he could play against the Raiders. The Colts are conducting all their meetings virtually this week, so Wentz will be able to participate in everything but practice in the lead-up to Week 17.
"If he clears, according to the protocol, his fifth day would be Sunday and in theory would be available for the game, if he clears," Reich said. "In the meantime, he'll be in meetings virtually preparing so that if he does clear, he could play."
(The Colts activated four players from the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday after the NFL and NFLPA updated their isolation protocols on Tuesday.)
The Colts already prepared for a game without knowing if Wentz would be available once this year – that coming in Week 3 against the Tennessee Titans. Two critical differences between now and then, though: First, Wentz's ankles are not injured; second, he's made 15 starts instead of two (which followed training camp, in which Wentz missed several practices following foot surgery).
"He had barely practiced at that point," Reich said. "But now, we've had a whole year of practice so we've got a lot of accumulated reps. So, if he's able to get himself back and ready, we're confident. I feel like we're at a much, much better spot that we were in Week 3 when he didn't practice. We have so many more practices and games under our belt.
"On the flip side of that, it's a great opportunity for Sam to get reps. He's been getting his share of reps and a lot of scout-team reps and all the fundamental and technique work. So this will be a good opportunity for him to get the team reps."
Ehlinger and the Colts been preparing for him to play ever since he was activated off injured reserve back in October, though, knowing he's been one play away from needing to step in since Reich named him the team's backup quarterback. Ehlinger has worked diligently to challenge himself with mental reps during practice knowing he might be needed to win a game at any point.
That point could, potentially this weekend – when the Colts would clinch a spot in the playoffs with a victory over the Raiders.
"The nice thing about all of this is all season, I've been treating it that way," Ehlinger said. "Especially in these times with COVID, really anybody's situation regardless of their status. We've seen this year, it could be day of that game, 'Hey, you got to go.' I think that's been something I've placed emphasis on and I like to think I'd do that regardless of COVID from a preparation standpoint – being ready whenever my number is called because that's what my job entails.
"So, the last week hasn't really been much different. Obviously, we know there's been a flurry of cases and things are kind of going crazy all over America, especially in the NFL. For me, it's been business as usual and preparing as if I were going to be the starter regardless of role."
And Ehlinger said observing how Wentz practices, prepares and leads has prepared him well for the moment the Colts need him – whether that's on Sunday or some time later.
"It's been an unbelievable year this far learning from Carson," Ehlinger said. "He's played in a lot of different situations, a lot of different games, big-time games, played in this scheme, played with coach Reich. Just being a quarterback in the NFL, it's very unique compared to a lot of different jobs around America. So, being able to see the way he handles his business and operates himself, not only on the field as a leader but also off the field in preparation and things like that.
"I would say every area from his drops, to his pregame preparation, to the way he sees the field, the way he leads. I've learned so much and I'm very thankful for that opportunity."
Wednesday's practice report
- Reich said Fisher and Doyle are day-to-day.
- Center Ryan Kelly (personal) returned to practice.
- Reich on Wednesday addressed rumors regarding Philip Rivers: "Yes, I have talked to Philip," Reich said. "Obviously, you guys know that I'm close to him. We've talked all year long. We have talked all year long. I kind of followed his coaching career, talking about his high school team that he coached. I did talk to him fairly recently. He was on a Christmas vacation with his family. I have talked to him about our situation here, but there is nothing to report and no other further comment at this point."