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Colts Wednesday Notebook: Colts' Secondary Hit With Injuries; Challenges Of Facing Aaron Rodgers

The Indianapolis Colts today officially began on-field preparations for Sunday’s Week 11 contest against the Green Bay Packers. What were some of the top takeaways on the day?


INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts today officially began on-field preparations for Sunday's Week 11 contest against the Green Bay Packers. What were some of the top takeaways on the day?

Injury report

Here is today's injury report, the first of the week for the Colts:

Watch those defensive backs

While the Colts as a team certainly benefitted from a couple extra days off after playing the Thursday Night Football contest last week against the Tennessee Titans, there are still some players battling various bumps and bruises that bear monitoring heading into Sunday's game against the Packers — especially in the secondary.

Cornerback Kenny Moore II and safety Khari Willis both did not practice on Wednesday with injuries to their ribs; safety Julian Blackmon, meanwhile, was a limited participant in Wednesday's practice, as he's listed with pelvis and knee injuries.

Asked about Moore II's status, specifically, on Wednesday, head coach Frank Reich said he's "hoping" the team's top nickel cornerback won't have to miss any more time after exiting last Thursday's game against the Titans and not returning.

"We'll see," Reich said. "Those rib injuries, my experience with them is you think it's OK and then you actually get in there and start doing something and it doesn't take much to aggravate it.

"(Moore II) will not practice today and then we're just going to have to take it day-by-day after that because of the nature of a rib injury," Reich added.

Tight end Jack Doyle, meanwhile, continues to sit out as he tries to work his way through the concussion protocol. Other non-rest-related injuries of note for the Colts on Wednesday were tight end Mo Alie-Cox (limited; knee) and defensive end Kemoko Turay (limited; ankle).

For Turay, Wednesday was his first official practice with the team this season after he was activated off the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list earlier in the week.

Rodgers 'has the total package'

Another reason to keep an eye on the injury status of guys like Moore II, Willis and Blackmon is the quarterback the Colts are facing on Sunday in future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers.

At 36 years old — and turning 37 on Dec. 2 — Rodgers is still getting it done at an elite level for the Packers, who at 7-2 are leading the NFC North Division. This season, Rodgers has completed 213-of-314 passes (67.8 percent) for 2,578 yards with 26 touchdowns to just three interceptions; his 116.4 quarterback rating is tops in the NFL.

Another veteran still getting it done at a high level is Colts defensive end Justin Houston, who, believe it or not, is yet to sack Rodgers now in his 10th season in the NFL; Houston has played the Packers twice in his career, both as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, and has eight combined tackles, one for a loss, as well as two quarterback hits, but the sack on Rodgers has eluded him to this point.

While Houston is hoping to to change all of that on Sunday, he knows just how challenging it is to face a guy like Rodgers who not only has one of the most dangerous and accurate arms in NFL history, but also has sneaky elusiveness in and out of the pocket.

"Being disciplined," Houston said today when asked about the biggest challenge facing Rodgers. "I know he's looking for weakness. He's going to try to attack you, make sure you're playing sound football, try to get the D-line to jump offsides. He's known for his hard counts and he's just like on the field – when you have that much experience and been playing that many years, it's a coach on the field. He sees things real fast. Our hands are full."

While Houston said Rodgers isn't exactly Lamar Jackson — the Colts' Week 9 opponent — when it comes to speed and quickness, the veteran defensive end said the two-time MVP Rodgers still "definitely has the total package."

"He can do it all," Houston said. "He can run when he needs to, his arm is amazing and he reads coverage like no other. It's a coach on the field with talent, so it's a tough task."

Rookie's 'explosiveness' stands out

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 NFL rookie class entered the regular season at quite a disadvantage compared to previous years' rookies.

Rookie minicamp? On-field team offseason workouts? Minicamp? A full training camp? Preseason games? Not this year. The entire offseason workout program this year was held virtually, while training camp was scaled back a bit from its usual format.

So, because of this, some rookies have naturally taken a little bit longer than others to emerge. And Colts quarterback Philip Rivers thought 2020 second-round pick Michael Pittman Jr. was starting to do just that back in Indy's Week 3 matchup against the New York Jets when he suffered a lower leg injury that required a minor surgical procedure, keeping him out a few weeks.

Pittman Jr. returned from injured reserve in time for the Colts' Week 8 win over the Detroit Lions, and had one receptions for six yards as he worked his way back into the mix. The following week? Four receptions for 56 yards against the Ravens.

And last Thursday against the Titans? A breakout performance: seven receptions for 101, as well as a 21-yard run play on a reverse.

Pittman Jr.'s arrow is clearly pointing up, and Rivers is loving every minute of it.

"He's just continuing to improve," Rivers said of Pittman Jr. "A young receiver, super talented (and) eager to learn. A receiver that didn't get the offseason OTAs and all those things that you usually get. He had a really good training camp and really was starting – I thought – to hit a stride and had the unfortunate injury. Then since he's been back up and on the practice field and in these games each week he's really improved."

Rivers said Pittman Jr.'s "explosiveness" stood out the most to him against the Titans.

"He was super explosive, both out of the break as far as getting across the field on those shallows and really when he had the ball in his hand, how strong he was as a runner on a couple of the catches and certainly the reverse as well," Rivers said.

Rivers, Pittman Jr. and the Colts' offense hope to keep the momentum going on Sunday against a Packers defense that ranks 13th in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (225.1).

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