INDIANAPOLIS — A huge piece to the Indianapolis Colts' defensive puzzle will be making his return to the practice field next week for the first time all year.
Safety Clayton Geathers, who underwent surgery in March to correct a bulging disk in his neck, will be a limited participant in practice next week, head coach Chuck Pagano said on Friday.
Once Geathers, who has been on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Patricipate (PUP) list since the beginning of the season, does return to the practice field, the Colts then have 21 days to decide whether or not to add him to the active roster, or to keep him on PUP for the rest of the year, officially ending his season.
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."
Pagano has said he expects Geathers to play this season, and that 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."