INDIANAPOLIS — Back injuries, especially for a football player, can be fickle. While the training staff can do everything it can to get a player back on the field, a back issue can flare up at any time, which means that getting rest can sometimes be the best remedy.
For Indianapolis Colts right tackle Joe Reitz, that's exactly been the plan of attack the past couple weeks, as he has been recovering from a nagging back injury. He left the game midway through the Colts' Week 3 victory against the San Diego Chargers before missing the team's entire game last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium in London.
The rest and constant treatment has apparently done its job, however, as Reitz was back on the practice field this week, and could be back at right tackle on Sunday, when the Colts take on the Chicago Bears at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"Yeah, feeling better, and got out the last few days in practice, so that was good," said Reitz, who is officially labeled as questionable for the game. "You know, it's always hard when you're not playing. But I'm excited to be back out there practicing with the guys, and we're excited about this Sunday."
With both Joe Reitz and right guard Denzelle Good each battling back issues the past couple weeks, the team has turned to more of a youth movement, with rookies Joe Haeg and Austin Blythe starting at the right guard and tackle spots, respectively, last week against the Jaguars.
And while it's always nice for a coaching staff to get its younger players and depth as much experience as it can, the younger offensive line — which also features a rookie at center in Ryan Kelly — struggled at times against the Jacksonville defense, allowing six sacks of Andrew Luck and eight additional quarterback hits.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano didn't go into much detail this week, but said with Reitz and Good most likely available, the team is "going to put the best five out there, the five that give us the best chance to win" against the Bears.
If Reitz is back at his familiar right tackle spot, he'll be ready to go.
"We know we've got a big challenge in Chicago. (A) stout front seven, a John Fox team (and defensive coordinator) Vic Fangio — two great, really, really great defensive minds," Reitz said. "So we know that they'll be prepared on their side of the ball, and it's our job to improve from last week, correct the things that we had mistakes on, and go out and put out a better performance on Sunday."
But that's certainly easier said than done, and Reitz says the Colts' offensive line has been working hard to shed its struggles from the first four weeks of the season. Entering Sunday's game, the Colts have given up the most sacks (15) of any team in the league, and their 33 quarterback hits allowed are the second most in the NFL.
The formula to success for the Indianapolis offense is pretty simple: when Luck has time to throw the ball, good things tend to happen. Reitz hopes, beginning Sunday, the big guys up front can start to get on a roll.
"We know we have a lot of things to correct and get better at, but we know we're close, too," Reitz said. "We know that the things that we're making mistakes on are correctible. And that's a good thing. We're shooting ourselves in the foot too much, so that's got to stop, and we've got to get better. And if we do that, hopefully then you start flipping those Ls into Ws in the win column and you get on a roll.
"So that's the plan for us, is to play better football, play more sound football, and not beat ourselves, and go out and do everything we can to put together a good performance this week."