INDIANAPOLIS — Jack Doyle could be returning to the mix just at the right time for the Indianapolis Colts.
The Pro Bowl tight end, who has missed the last five games with a hip injury, is expected to return to the practice field today for the first time in more than a month, and even has a shot at playing this Sunday in the Colts' Week 8 road matchup against the Oakland Raiders, head coach Frank Reich told reporters today.
"I think there's a chance that he plays (Sunday)," Reich said.
Doyle suffered, and played through, his hip injury in the Colts' Week 2 victory over the Washington Redskins, and, as a result, has missed extended time for the first time in his six-year career with the Colts.
At the time of his injury, Doyle was beginning to form a dangerous duo with new tight end Eric Ebron. Through two games, Doyle had caught nine passes for 80 yards, and also continued to be counted on as a solid run blocker.
Since Doyle left the lineup, Ebron has picked up the slack — and then some. Signed as a free agent this offseason after spending his first four seasons with the Detroit Lions, the former first-round pick is tied for third among all NFL tight ends in receptions (33), is sixth among tight ends in receiving yards (357) and is second in the NFL — and leads all league tight ends — in touchdown receptions (six).
But quarterback Andrew Luck has also been able to spread the wealth to other players at the position, as third-year tight end Erik Swoope also has three touchdown receptions among his seven catches for 83 yards on the year.
In fact, the Colts' 52 receptions by tight ends so far this season are the second most within that position group in the NFL.
"It's been a great asset. It's what we envision in this offense – that the ball gets spread around, they get good matchups in the passing game," Reich said of the Colts' tight ends, which also include Ryan Hewitt and Mo Alie-Cox. "If it's a man-to-man team, the receivers take away some of the corners and the nickel and they matchup with safeties and linebackers. They've done a good job. Andrew (Luck) has done a good job of getting them the ball and exploiting those matchups. And to the tight ends' credit, they've done a good job of when they get their hands on the ball making plays and making very impactful plays for us.
Doyle's potential return is only expected to continue that success. He's coming off a season in which he earned his first-career selection to the Pro Bowl, catching 80 passes for 690 yards and four touchdowns.
Doyle could also be a major boost for a Colts offense that also just saw the return of its top wide receiver, T.Y. Hilton, who missed two games with chest and hamstring injuries. Hilton last Sunday caught two touchdown passes in a 37-5 victory over the Buffalo Bills, which snapped a four-game losing streak.
"You can tell Jack is ready," Reich said of Doyle last week. "You can tell Jack is ready, wanting to go and feeling like, 'Hey, let me do more. Let me do more. Let's go.' I certainly appreciate that about him, and T.Y. the same. I've appreciated how dialed in they have stayed to what we are doing, how dialed in they are to what their teammates are doing. That really bodes well for when you do step back in alignment. You just kind of get things rolling again."
No update on Vinatieri
Reich on Wednesday didn't have much of an update on kicker Adam Vinatieri, who is dealing with a groin injury, and whose status for the Raiders game remains up in the air.
"(We) just (will) continue to monitor that situation as the week goes on, and continue to talk to him and make the best decision later in the week," Reich said.
Vinatieri has been dealing with the groin issue since Week 5, when he initially appeared on the injury report, but re-aggravated the injury last Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, a game in which he missed two extra-point attempts but also was able to fight through the pain to connect on a field goal and two other extra-point tries.
Reich said Monday the team was expecting to bring in some kickers on a tryout basis this week to have them ready to go just in case Vinatieri can't kick Sunday against the Raiders.
In a bit of good timing for both Vinatieri and the Colts, however, the team has its bye week next week.
Here's Wednesday's full practice report:
» DNP: WR Ryan Grant (ankle); S Malik Hooker (hip); TE Erik Swoope (knee); RB Robert Turbin (shoulder); K Adam Vinatieri (right groin); DT Jihad Ward (ankle)
» Limited: DT/DE Denico Autry (ankle); TE Jack Doyle (hip); WR Dontrelle Inman (neck); RB Marlon Mack (ankle)
» Full: S Clayton Geathers (neck); CB Arthur Maulet
— This is the second time we've seen Hooker listed with a hip injury in the last few weeks; the other instance was Week 5, but he was listed as a full participant for all days of practice that week (which were an estimation of participation due to the short week and the team holding walkthroughs instead). We'll keep an eye on this one.
— Autry had missed the last couple games with a hamstring injury, but now is listed with an ankle injury for this week — which is actually the injury that kept him out of the lineup for a couple games earlier in the season.
— This is the first time we've seen Inman (neck) on the injury report, as well as Mack being listed with an ankle injury. Both were limited Wednesday.
— Potentially good news for Geathers, whose injuries no longer include a concussion. Not that his remaining neck injury isn't a potential cause for concern considering his past, but he's been a full participant at practices multiple times the past couple weeks and perhaps could gain game clearance at some point, one would think.