INDIANAPOLIS — When Marlon Mack went down in the Indianapolis Colts' preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks, he couldn't have imagined the frustration he'd feel over the next few weeks as he worked to get back to the field.
But hamstring injuries at the running back position require lots of patience, as pushing it too soon can easily result in setbacks that could lead to even more time missed.
Accordingly, in the month-plus since Mack suffered that injury, he's taken a cautious approach. But make no mistake: the start of the regular season last Sunday certainly added fuel to his fire to get back as soon as possible.
"It's been frustrating and hard," Mack told reporters this week. "But I try not to really let it bring me down; (I try) to stay focused and hopefully when I get back, whenever I get back, help the team win. And that's the main focus right now for me is when I get back is make sure I help this team win."
Mack was able to return to the practice field last week for the first time since suffering his hamstring injury in the first half of that Seahawks preseason game on Aug. 9. A gametime decision for last Sunday's Week 1 matchup against the Bengals, the team elected to continue being cautious with its top running back and put him on the inactives list for the contest.
Mack has once again been a limited participant in practices this week leading up to this Sunday's Week 2 matchup on the road against the Washington Redskins, but despite the fact he has been able to participate in some team drills this time around, he's not yet sure if he'll be cleared to play or not.
"That's really up to the trainers and the coaching staff," Mack said. "We're taking it slow each day, and preparing each day.
"I feel (like) every day I'm getting better," Mack continued. "So I feel I'm getting better each day, so today I'm feeling way better than yesterday, so I'm taking it one day at a time."
With Mack out of the lineup, the Colts turned to rookie Jordan Wilkins, who earned the start against the Bengals in his first-career game and had 14 carries for 40 yards. Another rookie, Nyheim Hines, also got plenty of touches, both as a runner (five rushing attempts) and in the passing game (seven receptions), while veteran Christine Michael was also in the mix with a couple rushing attempts.
But the Colts also elected to go pass-heavy against the Bengals — particularly in the second half — so Mack and the rest of the backs already know their roles and expectations should increase on Sunday and moving forward, depending on the game plan.
"We do have to run the ball better and we would like to run the ball more, but sometimes the situation of the game leads you in the direction that it led us," Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said. "In that (Bengals) game, I didn't feel (lopsided playcalling). I know Frank (Reich), you would have to ask him, but I don't think he felt that way either because we were in a situation where we needed to throw the ball a little bit more there."