INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts dialed things down a little bit on Wednesday.
After holding three practices last week in 90-plus-degree temperatures, and then taking on the Tennessee Titans on Sunday in Nashville, where temperatures soared into the mid- to upper-90s on the field, head coach Frank Reich thought it was important to let his players recharge their batteries a little bit heading into this Sunday's 2019 home opener against the Atlanta Falcons.
So the team today held what Reich considers a "modified practice," which is essentially an "up-tempo walkthrough" where the players actually got in more work than they would during a normal Wednesday session.
"Normally in a Wednesday practice you get 40-ish reps," Reich said. "A day like today we'll get 60-ish reps.
"I just think it'll be a good chance for the players to mentally get what we need, to really see and feel what we plan."
Reich and the Colts utilized these "modified practices" in the final month of the regular season last year, as well as in the weeks leading up to their two playoff contests. Another advantage, Reich said, is that a player who "injury-wise maybe couldn't go full speed" for a normal Wednesday practice can take part in a modified workout.
"He can do this," Reich said. "Get more work out of it."
That could very well be the case for a guy like Jabaal Sheard, who was seen Wednesday taking part in his first team on-field work since the very first day of training camp practices on July 25 — a span of almost eight weeks.
The veteran defensive end experienced some "soreness and swelling" in his knee after that first day of camp practice, and eventually underwent a minor surgical procedure. The Colts decided against placing Sheard on injured reserve to open the regular season, which would've resulted in him missing at least the first eight weeks; he has since missed the Colts' first two regular season games against the Los Angeles Chargers and Titans.
Sheard was listed as a limited participant Wednesday, though participation was an estimation for if team had held an actual practice.
In other Colts injury-related news:
— Top cornerback Pierre Desir, who suffered a knee injury early in the third quarter of last Sunday's game against the Titans and didn't return, was seen taking part in the early portion of today's practice that was open to the media. Defensive end Kemoko Turay, who was ruled out of the Titans game due to a neck injury, was also an early participant today.
— Linebacker Darius Leonard, meanwhile, was not seen during the early portion of today's practice. Reich announced Monday that Leonard began feeling concussion-like symptoms after the Titans game and has since been placed in the league's concussion protocol. Leonard, who had a team-high 10 tackles and a sack in the win over Tennessee, must be cleared by an independent league neurologist before he can play Sunday vs. the Falcons.
— Starting running back Marlon Mack, meanwhile, was also not seen taking part in the early portion of today's practice. He was listed as out with a calf injury.
Run the darn ball
The Colts enter Sunday's game against the Falcons ranked tied for second in the NFL in rushing at 185 yards per game.
After paving the way for Mack to run for a career-best 174 yards Week 1 against the Chargers, the Indy offensive line had another strong performance in that area against the Titans, as the Colts ran for 167 total yards and compiled a 4.9 yards-per-carry average against one of the better defenses in the league.
Included in that total last Sunday in Nashville was Jordan Wilkins' game-changing 55-yard scamper late in the fourth quarter that set up the Colts' game-winning touchdown pass from Jacoby Brissett to T.Y. Hilton on the very next play.
Reich challenged his offense early in the offseason that he wanted a top-five rushing attack in the NFL, and so far the big guys up front have answered the call.
"Running the ball's fun," left tackle Anthony Castonzo said Wednesday. "And I think the whole offensive line really buys in and really takes pride in that. It's something that we want to continue to do."
The Falcons (1-1) enter Sunday's game against the Colts ranked in the middle of the pack against the run (110.5 rushing yards allowed per game) but Castonzo sees a quick unit overall when studying his next opponent.
"They're fast," Castonzo said. "I mean, they're fast at every position — D-line, linebackers, DBs, they've got speed. They can get places real quickly. You have to play with good technique, you gotta keep your feet underneath you, because they can make you look silly 'cause they're as quick as they are."
Here's the full injury report from Wednesday's practice (participation listed is an estimation if team had a full practice):
» DNP: LB Darius Leonard (concussion), RB Marlon Mack (calf)
» Limited: CB Pierre Desir (knee), WR T.Y. Hilton (quad), DE Al-Quadin Muhammad (shoulder), DE Jabaal Sheard (knee), DE Kemoko Turay (neck), RB Jonathan Williams (rib)
» Full: QB Jacoby Brissett (knee)