The last month and a half was hard on Grover Stewart, who was relegated to watching the Colts from his couch.
Well, if he was ever sitting on it.
"I'd get up, do my (gameday) routine like what I used to do, and just sit down and watch the guys," Stewart said. "I'd be jumping up, standing up looking in front of the TV and everything. It's been crazy for me."
Stewart was suspended in mid-October for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances, a suspension he said came as a surprise. NFL rules meant Stewart had to be away from the Colts' facility for the first three weeks of the suspension, and after he was allowed to return to the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center – though he was not allowed to participate in practice.
But Stewart committed himself to getting up early every day and setting a routine during his six-game suspension: Working out and doing conditioning drills, watching film and trying to support his teammates however he could.
There were two silver linings to Stewart's suspension, though. First: The 30-year-old Stewart, who hadn't missed a game since Week 4 of the 2018 season, feels fresh for the stretch run.
"I feel like a new man," Stewart said. "I'm ready."
When asked if he felt he needed to be on a pitch count in his return against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14, Stewart shook his head and grinned: "All game."
The other silver lining: The Colts went 4-2 in the six games Stewart missed.
The Colts hit that record despite allowing 4.7 yards per rush (28th in the NFL in Weeks 7-13) without Stewart, who's established himself as one of the league's top interior run-stuffers over his seven-year career. But while the Colts' run defense dipped, their pass rush more than made up for it, generating 30 sacks – the most in the NFL – in those six games without Stewart.
"I'm proud of the guys, man, like each and every week going out there giving their all," Stewart said. "Being on this four-game win streak, you can't ask for more than that."
With Stewart available in Weeks 1-6, the Colts held opponents to 3.7 yards per carry, 10th in the NFL. At the time of his suspension, Stewart had the sixth-most tackles against the run (15) and the third-most tackles for a loss or no gain (six) among defensive linemen.
While the Colts leaned on guys like Eric Johnson II, Taven Bryan and Adetomiwa Adebawore in his absence, the defensive line will get a boost when Stewart gets back on the field.
"It's kind of obvious but he definitely helps our defensive line and he's a really good player," head coach Shane Steichen said. "He's a big-time player that is going to help us on Sunday."
Stewart's long wait will come to an end Sunday afternoon at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati. And he'll finally get back to doing what he loves for a team in the middle of a playoff run.
"I just miss hitting people," Stewart said, "throwing people out the way, turning up with the team and having fun."
Wednesday's practice report
The Colts conducted a walkthrough on Wednesday, which Steichen said is likely to be the norm for December into January.
"Getting late in the season and making sure these guys are fresh," Steichen said. "You guys will probably see a lot of walk-thrus on Wednesdays going forward with these last couple of games just to make sure these guys are ready to go for Sunday."