INDIANAPOLIS — If Jacoby Brissett is going to be able to play on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, then he took a significant step forward on Wednesday.
The Indianapolis Colts' starting quarterback, who was knocked out of last Sunday's Week 9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers with a knee injury early in the second quarter, was a limited practice in Wednesday's practice.
Brissett's participation by no means guarantees that he'll play in four days, but it's certainly a positive sign nonetheless.
"Yeah, I'm pretty encouraged," Colts head coach Frank Reich said. "I mean, I kind of thought he was going to be able to based on how he said he felt the other day.
"I mean, I still don't think anything's a slam dunk," Reich continued. "I mean, he'll be limited, (Brian) Hoyer will get some reps today, and we just have to let it play out, because I just know it's one thing — probably anybody who's played this game has had this injury — and you think you feel good, but you actually gotta get out there and test it out. So we'll see how it goes during the week."
Brissett suffered the injury early in the second quarter against the Steelers; shortly after firing off a pass attempt towards running back Jordan Wilkins, he was rolled up by left guard Quenton Nelson, who had been knocked back into the quarterback by a Pittsburgh defender.
Brissett was replaced by backup Brian Hoyer as he worked with trainers and doctors on the sideline, but the team ultimately decided to hold him out the rest of the game. An MRI on Monday showed Brissett suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee, but that he had no significant damage.
From here, Reich said a balance will need to be struck between Brissett, who will undoubtedly want to play on Sunday no matter how he feels, and the long-term implications if he were to suffer any sort of setback.
"We're going to rely on him, we're going to rely on the doctors, I think we're gonna have to all get together on this decision," Reich said. "And there is some of it, 'Let's be smart. We don't want to lose you for the long haul by trying to be a hero,' so there's some of that comes into play.
"But, you know, Jacoby's old school, now. I mean, he's old school," Reich continued. "I mean, you guys know; you saw the year he played and he took a beating and he played every stinkin' snap. So this guy is as tough as they come. But we gotta do the right thing for him and for our team, and we'll just see how it plays out. He's our quarterback, we want him to play, and if he's ready to play, then he'll be the starter."
Hoyer getting reps
The Colts are preparing for the possibility of two quarterbacks starting on Sunday against the Dolphins.
And if Brissett can't ultimately play, the team feels fortunate to have one of the more experienced backups in the league on its side in Hoyer, who showed his worth in relief action last Sunday against the Steelers.
Signed just before the start of the regular season, the 11-year veteran Hoyer stepped in and completed 17-of-26 passes (65.4 percent) for 168 yards with three touchdowns to one interception for an overall quarterback rating of 105.9. By game's end, he had put the Colts in position to win the ballgame, but their go-ahead field goal attempt with 1:14 left was wide left, and Pittsburgh would escape with a two-point victory, 26-24.
Reich said Hoyer will be involved even more than usual this week in practice just in case his number is called on Sunday.
"You know, it's just mentally really be tuned in to every little detail, whatever reps he gets in practice make the most of, and then he's gotta get some side stuff, you know, throwing to receivers on the side in between periods or after practice, grabbing guys, talking to guys," Reich said.
Reich, a former well-known NFL backup quarterback himself, knows exactly what Hoyer is going through.
"I know when I was in that role and then all of a sudden you had to step in, there was just a lot of one-on-one conversations with the center, with the offensive line, with your receivers, just building that chemistry with them," Reich said. "And I think if he has to play, obviously it helps to come in and have played the bulk of the game last week, and so if it ends up where he plays (I've) just got a lot of confidence in him."
"It's great," Hoyer said, in reference to Reich's experience as a backup quarterback. "And we've talked about this before: just knowing his career and being in the position that he's in, I think there's a lot that we can relate to, and we've had conversations about that since I've been here, really. So to be put in that situation, I know he knows exactly what I'm going through, where I'm at with all those things. And it's been super beneficial to have him there."
'This guy is weird'
T.Y. Hilton suffered a calf injury in practice one week ago, and was initially believed to have a three-to-four week window before he could possibly consider returning.
That hasn't necessarily changed, Reich said Wednesday, but when asked if Hilton was already ruled out for Sunday's game against the Dolphins, the second-year head coach wouldn't say yes, and he wouldn't say no.
That's because, Reich said, Hilton does things not many other humans can do in terms of recovering from injuries.
"I think he's making progress, and I'm only saying this because it's T.Y.: I mean this guy is weird; he's like a freakish healer," Reich said. "And he doesn't say a lot; he just kinda figures out how to do it. So I don't even ask — I mean, I do, I'm obviously the coach (and) wanna know — but just, 'OK, whatever that is that you do to get better, let's just go ahead and do it, and let us know when you can play.' So, yeah, don't ever wanna count him out until we absolutely have to."
Hilton, after all, is the guy who suffered a high and low ankle sprain — to the same ankle — late last season, and not only played through it, but remained extremely productive.
Anytime a player is injured, the team takes that player's opinion into account when trying to determine if they will play, but Reich said Hilton's word is weighted even more.
"Yeah, it's definitely a factor, especially when you're a vet like T.Y.," Reich said. "And there's percentages, right? A player always has a say and his opinion is heavily weighted; when it's somebody like T.Y., you add more weight to it — absolutely."
Here's the full injury report from Wednesday's practice:
» DNP: WR Parris Campbell (hand); WR T.Y. Hilton (calf); S Malik Hooker (knee)
» Limited: QB Jacoby Brissett (knee); CB Pierre Desir (hamstring); S Clayton Geathers (not injury related; rest)
» Full: C Ryan Kelly (burner)
— Good news for Kelly, who suffered his injury during the first quarter of last Sunday's game against the Steelers, and after trying to come back in, was eventually downgraded to out.