Advertising

Malik Hooker Had ‘No Doubt’ He’d Be Ready For Week 1

082718_malik-hooker-side-prax

INDIANAPOLIS — As Malik Hooker sat on the turf, team trainers surrounding him and the cart headed his way, the TV replays confirmed the brutal scene that had developed along the Lucas Oil Stadium sidelines just moments prior.

Hooker was working on getting an angle on Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns — who had hauled in a long pass from quarterback Blake Bortles, broke a couple tackles and took off down the left sideline — when he was met by wide receiver Keelan Coles, who delivered a low block on the Colts’ safety at the Indianapolis 40-yard line.

Hooker had sustained a devastating blow to his right knee, but the rookie waved off the cart and somehow was able to walk all the way across the field to the Colts’ sideline — albeit slowly — under his own power.

That certainly wouldn’t be the last time Hooker would display his toughness over the next 10 1/2 months.

And on Sunday, just 322 days after suffering a torn ACL and MCL in that Week 7 matchup against the Jaguars, Hooker will make his official return to the Colts’ lineup for their 2018 season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium.

In normal circumstances, it’d be fair to give a player at least a year to return from reconstructive knee surgery — but, then again, Hooker isn’t normal.

“I think there are players who are freakish like that. A lot of these guys are, but he’s certainly at that category — I think at the top of that,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said. “To literally go out there and – you just can’t believe that it’s been 10 months.”

It’s actually the second straight year Hooker has worked his way back from surgery to be available for the Colts in their regular season opener; he had an operation on his hip coming out of Ohio State last year but was able to make his NFL debut by the time Indy opened up the 2017 season on the road against the Los Angeles Rams.

Hooker’s aforementioned “freakish” qualities undoubtedly plays a major role in his ability to quickly work his way back from major injuries, but having a determined mindset and relentless work ethic certainly doesn’t hurt, either.

“In my mind I always think that I am capable of getting back Week 1, especially off the ACL of course and the hip surgery I had,” Hooker said. “Just how I rehabbed and I approached every day throughout the process, I knew that I was very capable of getting back because I was progressing a lot faster than a lot of guys would off an ACL, or even a hip injury. 

“So there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to be able to come back Week 1.”

Hooker also already has a significant number of practices, as well as one preseason game, under his belt entering Sunday’s regular season opener.

He started training camp on July 26 on the Colts’ Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, but worked his way back to the active roster by Aug. 2 and slowly began to be incorporated into the action on the practice field.

Cleared for full contact by the Colts’ third preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers on Aug. 25, Hooker took full advantage of his 21 snaps working with the first-team defense in that matchup, finishing with one tackle and also knocking down a would-be touchdown pass from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to tight end Cole Hikutini as the last line of defense in the end zone.

While Hooker was obviously on a pitch count during that preseason game, Reich said the second-year safety likely won’t have his reps monitored on Sunday against the Bengals.

The team will, of course, keep a close eye on Hooker, but it appears he’s free to roam the secondary the entire game — which is huge for this young Indy defense.

“He is ready to play,” Reich said. “(We’re) excited about how he has looked in practice, the progression that he has made physically endure-wise. We have our eye on that and we will monitor it during the game.”

Related Content

Advertising