INDIANAPOLIS —For a brief moment, as he sat in his hospital bed, Jack Doyle wondered if his football playing days were over.
Back in the Indianapolis Colts' Week 12 matchup against the Miami Dolphins at Lucas Oil Stadium, Doyle was hit hard in the back and initially thought he had the wind knocked out of him.
He tried to stay in the game, but that didn't last long at all. Now in a great deal of pain, Doyle was taken to a local Indianapolis hospital, where it was determined he needed immediate kidney surgery.
Doyle's season, he knew right then, was over with five games left to play. But just how serious was this injury?
Fortunately for Doyle, his doctors told him, it could've been much worse. After a two-night stay in the hospital, the veteran Colts tight end was sent on his way for a full recovery — which, he hopes, will put him back on the field sometime during the offseason workout program.
Doyle on Sunday talked to reporters for the first time since that scary moment.
"It's tough to be hurt, tough to be out," said Doyle, who had played at least 15 games in the first five games of his career before being limited to six in 2018. "(It was) just one of those years. I've been fairly lucky in the health department. Just another challenge ahead. I'm trying to get stronger and better and back out there."
After putting in a career year in 2017 — his 80 receptions helped earn him his first-career Pro Bowl selection — Doyle entered 2018 with a new partner in crime at the tight end position in Eric Ebron, whom the team signed in free agency back in March. The two seemed destined to take the league by storm as one of the best tight end duos working within a brand new offense guided by first-year head coach Frank Reich.
But just two weeks into the regular season, Doyle's year was brought to a halt for the first time — this time temporarily — as he suffered, and tried to played through, a painful hip injury in the Colts' Week 2 road victory over the Washington Redskins.
He would miss the next five games.
Doyle returned in time for the Colts' Week 8 game against the Oakland Raiders, and had fully worked his way back into the mix by Week 12 when the Dolphins came to Lucas Oil Stadium.
After catching four passes for 16 yards and a touchdown in the first half, however, Doyle, running a stick route in the third quarter, "took a pretty big hit," Reich said at the time, and was evaluated by trainers before trying to return to the field for two or three more plays.
That wasn't going to fly, however. Doyle remained sidelined the rest of that day, until the pain led him to the hospital, where he went under the knife.
A month and a half later, Doyle says his recovery is going well, thanks in part to the advice of quarterback Andrew Luck, who also missed seven games with a lacerated kidney injury back in 2015.
As it turns out, it's actually this nagging hip issue that could result in Doyle electing to have surgery sometime over the next few months. That's why he's not 100-percent ready to commit to being back by a certain point this offseason just yet.
Nevertheless, whenever Doyle is able to get back to the field, he'll look back on an injury-plagued 2018 campaign and feel lucky that it didn't end up even worse.
"It was a crazy deal," Doyle said.