INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts will always err on the side of caution when it comes to players' injuries, but perhaps they're being extra cautious when it comes to Clayton Geathers' latest issue.
The safety exited last week's game against the New England Patriots with both a neck injury and a concussion, and its the former that's of real concern to both the team and Geathers.
The obvious factor in play is that neck injuries, by their very nature, can be very scary in a contact spot like football. All it takes is one hit at the wrong angle, and paralysis — or even worse — can come into play.
But because Geathers has a past history with neck injuries — and the subsequent serious surgery that followed — the team is just playing it extra safe this time around.
"Anytime you get a neck injury thing, that's why you have to take every precaution, look at it and consider everything," Colts head coach Frank Reich said on Wednesday. "That's what we're in the process of doing, to see where it falls on that continuum."
Geathers suffered his latest injury while attempting to make a tackle on Patriots running back Sony Michel in the second quarter of last Thursday night's game at Gillette Stadium.
Initially evaluated for a concussion, Geathers was eventually ruled out with a neck injury and a concussion.
It was actually a tackle on a running back that led to Geathers' initial neck injury. Facing a 4th and 1 trailing by seven, 24-17, with just less than three minutes left back in Week 11, the Tennessee Titans put the ball in the hands of their running back, DeMarco Murray, who was known for his ability to run over defenders.
That wouldn't be the case on this day, however.
Before Murray can even begin to approach the chains, he's immediately met by a huge hit from Geathers.
No gain. Colts win.
But the Colts would lose Geathers, however, who would be placed on injured reserve due to the impact of that collision.
He would eventually have to undergo serious surgery on a bulging disk in his neck that made him wonder if he would ever play football again.
Geathers did make his return to the field late last season, although he admitted to playing a bit "scared" as he tested the waters with his surgically-repaired neck.
But Geathers certainly shook any feelings of fear heading into the 2018 season. In five games played, the defensive captain has 42 tackles — second on the team only to rookie linebacker Darius Leonard, the league's leader in that category — and he has been utilized all over the field, whether back deep at safety or as a linebacker in the dime package.
For now, however, Geathers and the Colts are playing it safe. They even signed veteran free agent safety Mike Mitchell, who could come in and provide immediate help at the position should Geathers miss any significant time.
"It's a real long continuum and a lot of it is fine and you can continue to play with it," Reich said of Geathers' neck injury.
But eventually, "there gets to be a point where you got to look at all that when it comes to that severity of an injury."