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Colts Thursday Notebook: Denico Autry Returns From Reserve/COVID-19 List; Quenton Nelson On Colts' Run Game Issues

The Indianapolis Colts on Thursday held their second of three days of on-field preparations for Sunday’s Week 13 contest against the Houston Texans. What were some of the top takeaways on the day?

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts on Thursday held their second of three days of on-field preparations for Sunday's Week 13 contest against the Houston Texans. What were some of the top takeaways on the day?

Injury report

Here is the Colts' Thursday injury report:

There are several injuries to keep an eye on heading into Friday's final day of practice of the week; head coach Frank Reich doesn't usually speak to reporters on Thursdays, so we'll wait for tomorrow, when Reich typically announces who's been ruled out of the upcoming game, to get any possible updates:

— Left tackle Anthony Castonzo suffered a sprained MCL early in the second quarter of last Sunday's loss to the Tennessee Titans and did not return. The Colts are yet to officially rule the 10th-year veteran out for Sunday's game against the Texans, but Reich did offer this about Castonzo on Wednesday: "We've just decided not to lock ourselves in to any formula other than, 'Hey, you just keep pushing it a little bit every day.' There is no reason to say, 'This is going to be one week, two weeks, three weeks, four weeks.' There is just no reason to say that so let's not put ourselves in a box. Let's just keep working at it as you can and try to get a little bit better every day."

— Castonzo's status puts a spotlight on a back injury suffered by tackle Chaz Green, who missed his second straight practice on Thursday. While Le'Raven Clark filled in for Castonzo at left tackle last Sunday against the Titans, Green is really the only other primary backup at both tackle spots. The Colts do have a tackle, undrafted rookie Carter O'Donnell, on their practice squad if needed, and 2020 fifth-round pick Danny Pinter, who is primarily an interior lineman, could likely play at tackle if needed, too.

— Starting linebacker Bobby Okereke, who missed last Sunday's game against the Titans, continues to be held out with an ankle injury. Fellow starter Anthony Walker ended up playing 100 percent of the defensive snaps in Week 12, while Zaire Franklin also played a significant role at linebacker in place of Okereke.

— Sticking with the defensive starters, safety Khari Willis missed his second straight day of practice Thursday with back and quad injuries. Willis was injured during the second half of last Sunday's loss to the Titans, and didn't return; he was replaced by veteran Tavon Wilson. The Colts also have George Odum at safety if needed.

— Quarterback Philip Rivers (toe) was able to be a limited participant on Thursday after missing Wednesday's practice. Rivers didn't participate in his first practice last week until Friday, so the added reps could pay off on Sunday.

— Some promising news: center Ryan Kelly, who missed last Sunday's game against the Titans with a neck injury, was a full participant in practice Thursday for a second straight day.

Autry returns

Check one more Colts player's name off the Reserve/COVID-19 list.

Defensive end/tackle Denico Autry, who was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Nov. 20 and ended up missing the last two games against the Green Bay Packers and the Titans, was officially moved back to the active roster on Thursday. Autry was listed as a limited participant in practice.

Autry and running back Jonathan Taylor (Wednesday) both have been activated off the Reserve/COVID-19 list this week for the Colts, leaving only defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list one week ago.

Autry leads the Colts with six sacks on the year; his potential presence off the edge and inside Sunday against the Texans gives Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus much more flexibility compared to last Sunday against the Titans, when Indy was down both Autry and Buckner.

'Not to our standard'

Quenton Nelson has played a huge role in some extremely solid rushing performances during his relatively short time with the Colts.

In 2018, Nelson's rookie season, Indy had back-to-back 200-yard rushing games (Weeks 7-8) for the first time since 1985; running back Marlon Mack's 148 rushing yards against the Texans in the Wild Card Round were also the most by a single player in a playoff game in franchise history.

Last season Nelson and the Colts kicked it up a notch in the run game, as Indy finished 1.5 rushing yards per game away from placing in the top five in the league, while the team had its most rushing yards in a season (2,130) since 1988, and best yards-per-carry figure (4.52) since 1985.

But this season, the Colts haven't been able to find that same level of consistency out of their run game. Indy has the 23rd-most rushing yards in the NFL (1,148), and its 3.7 yards-per-carry average ranks 31st out of 32 teams.

"Definitely not to our standard as an O-line," Nelson told reporters on Thursday. "I think there has been times where we've shown we can do it – we know we can do it because we've done it before. It is all about trusting it and working hard as five, working hard as one, seeing it all through one set of eyes and going out there and getting five guys on their five guys."

Five games remain for the Colts to dig deep and improve upon their rushing numbers, beginning on Sunday against the Texans, who allow the most yards per carry of any team in the NFL at 4.9.

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