INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts today officially began on-field preparations for Sunday's Week 12 contest against the Tennessee Titans. What were some of the top takeaways on the day?
Here is today's injury report, the first of the week for the Colts:
— More on this injury report in a bit, but first…
Buckner placed on Reserve/COVID-19 list
The Colts are preparing for the possibility of being without their top interior defender in this Sunday's crucial divisional clash against the Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The team on Wednesday placed defensive tackle DeForest Buckner on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, a category for players who either test positive for COVID-19 or have been quarantined after having been in close contact with an infected person or persons.
Teams cannot disclose whether a player on the list is in quarantine or is positive for COVID-19.
Buckner is now the second Colts starter along the defensive line who is away from the team, as defensive tackle/end Denico Autry was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday and ended up missing last Sunday's Week 11 victory over the Green Bay Packers. Head coach Frank Reich, who spoke to reporters before Buckner was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday, did not have an update on Autry's status.
Acquired via trade from the San Francisco 49ers in March, Buckner has been as advertised as one of the top interior defenders in the NFL in his first season in Indy. In 10 games, he has 41 total tackles (four for a loss) with 2.5 sacks, 16 quarterback hits, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one safety forced and a pass defensed.
Buckner is currently Pro Football Focus' fifth-highest graded interior defensive lineman (89.4); his 90.1 pass rush grade ranks fourth.
If Buckner is unable to return to the active roster in time for Sunday's game against the Titans, and if Autry remains on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, the Colts will likely turn to third-year defensive tackle/end Tyquan Lewis to take over at the three-technique spot.
Lewis, one of the Colts' four second-round picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, has a career-high 16 tackles (six for a loss) and 3.5 sacks on the year, despite playing just more than 33 percent of the team's defensive snaps; he also has four quarterback hits and a pass defensed.
Grover Stewart, the Colts' starting one-tech, and Taylor Stallworth are the other interior defensive linemen currently on the active roster; the team also has defensive tackles Kameron Cline, Chris Williams and Rob Windsor on its practice squad.
Windsor, the 2020 sixth-round pick out of Penn State, was elevated to the active roster last Sunday against the Packers and ended up making his NFL debut, earning his first-career tackle in two total defensive snaps.
About that injury report…
All told, not counting Buckner's absence, the Colts on Wednesday had 13 players on their injury report.
Nine players on Wednesday's injury report did not practice, and all of them play a major role for the team on offense, defense and/or special teams.
On offense, center Ryan Kelly (neck), left guard Quenton Nelson (back/ankle), wide receiver Zach Pascal (knee/foot) and quarterback Philip Rivers (toe) did not practice. On defense, safety Julian Blackmon (illness), Justin Houston (not injury related), linebacker Bobby Okereke (ankle), safety Khari Willis (ribs/shoulder) and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (illness) did not participate. Isaiah Rodgers, the Colts' top kick returner, was also held out for the same knee injury that prevented him from playing last Sunday against the Packers.
The Colts aren't scheduled to practice Thursday to give their players a chance to observe the Thanksgiving holiday; while there could be an estimated injury report released by the team for Thursday, the next we'll hear from Reich will be Friday, when he usually announces who's been ruled out of the upcoming game.
When it comes to Rivers, Reich said the veteran signal caller likely could've practiced Wednesday in a limited capacity, but watched from the sidelines out of an abundance of caution.
The 38-year-old Rivers has the NFL's longest active starting streak in the NFL at 231 games — 242 if you count the postseason.
Rivers told reporters Wednesday he feels "pretty good," but understands the cautious approach the team is taking with his toe injury; he said he expects to be brought back into the mix on Friday.
"I think I definitely could have gone today. I think it's a little bit of – probably the smart thing to do, then me getting better at my stubbornness as well. I think it's the best approach," Rivers said. "Obviously, with our schedule this week, having tomorrow off for Thanksgiving, just a couple more days of rest and be ready to be out there on Friday."
Rivers said he suffered the injury early in the third quarter of last Sunday's win against the Packers on a reverse play to wide receiver DeMichael Harris, as the quarterback, an eager blocker on the play, laid into outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith.
Rivers ended up missing a couple snaps in the second half but was able to finish the game; he completed 24-of-36 passes for 288 yards with three touchdowns to one interception in the Colts' 34-31 overtime win.