INDIANAPOLIS — A huge piece to the Indianapolis Colts' defensive puzzle could soon make his return to the practice field for the first time all year.
Safety Clayton Geathers, who underwent surgery in March to correct a bulging disk in his neck, is "a week to maybe two weeks away from getting back on the (practice) field," Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said on Monday.
When healthy, Geathers, 25, is considered one of the top Colts' defensive players. Coming from the strong safety position, Geathers is solid in coverage, but perhaps his greatest attribute is his overall physical nature and his tackling ability.
Last season, in just nine games played, Geathers finished fourth on the Colts with 60 total tackles (two for a loss), while he also added five passes defensed and one forced fumble.
In the Colts' Week 11 game against the Tennessee Titans, his fourth-down stop on running back DeMarco Murray sealed a 24-17 Indianapolis victory. Unfortunately, that would be Geathers' final game played in 2016, however, as he started experiencing pain in his neck that he said wasn't going away.
Geathers was inactive the next three weeks, and then was placed on Injured Reserve, officially ending his season, prior to the Colts' Week 15 game against the Minnesota Vikings. After determining the disk in his neck wasn't shrinking, Geathers and the team elected for surgery in March.
"The neck is something serious," Geathers said earlier this year. "You don't want to play around with the neck. But I believe in a higher power, and I just pray about it. Like I said, everything will work out.
"It's frustrating, but like I've said, the man above got me," Geathers continued. "It's adversity. We all go through it at some point in our life, our career. It's so that mine was back to back. I trust in the process and it's going to be all right."
Geathers was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list for the entirety of training camp, and was then transferred over to the Reserve/PUP list at the start of the regular season. After six weeks on the PUP list, the Colts then have another six-week window to decide whether to return Geathers to practice or hold him out for the rest of the year.
If/when Geathers does start practicing, the team has 21 days to decide whether to activate him to the 53-man roster or keep him on the PUP list for the remainder of the season.
Pagano on Monday said he expects Geathers to play this season. He said the safety is "getting closer" to taking the next big step in his eventual return.
"(He'll be) in a red (non-contact) jersey, being with his teammates — all non-contact for a couple-week period," Pagano said of the plan for Geathers once he does return to practice. "Then, integrate him into some individual stuff, some padded stuff and then go from there."