Colts Chatter: Julian Blackmon On His Return; T.Y. Hilton Meshing With Philip Rivers

Indianapolis Colts safety Julian Blackmon and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton talked to local reporters today via video conference. What’s the latest on Blackmon's official practice debut? What about Hilton's rapport with Philip Rivers? Here’s the latest edition of “Colts Chatter.”

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INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts safety Julian Blackmon and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton talked to local reporters today via video conference. What's the latest on Blackmon's official practice debut? What about Hilton's rapport with Philip Rivers? Here's the latest edition of "Colts Chatter."

Safety Julian Blackmon:

» Removed from the Non-Football Injury list Monday, Blackmon says his knee feels about 95 percent: Blackmon underwent surgery in December after injuring his knee in his final collegiate game at Utah. He was still selected by the Colts in the third round of this year's NFL Draft, and he has continued to see steady progress in his recovery and rehab process, passing his physical this week perhaps even a little sooner than originally believed.

"It's been a process," Blackmon said. "It's one that I've always trusted, and to be honest, I never had any negative thoughts. As soon as I got hurt, I'm a firm believer in God, and I kind of just believed that I was here for a reason because, one, I could handle it, and two, I needed it for something bigger. And I was blessed enough to be put in this situation, so the journey's been long, but it's been worth it. And it's been a lot of progressing and learning along the way."

While Blackmon's is feeling almost 100 percent and he's been able to make his debut on the practice field this week, he said he's had great input from the Colts' training and medical staffs about when it'll be time to turn it up a notch from here.

"I feel really good, and the training staff has done a really great job with me, just making me understand that the better I feel the more I'm going to want to be out there, but I can't just rush out there," Blackmon said. "I've got to make sure that my knee can handle it, as well as mentally I've got to be prepared to come in and know what I'm supposed to do on the field. So it's been really fun, but I feel really good."

» Blackmon likes his potential within the Colts' defense: Blackmon was a standout cornerback at Utah his first three seasons before blossoming as a safety his senior year in 2019. He's projected more as a free safety to start out with the Colts, but eventually the belief is that Blackmon can line up all over the formation.

While he was forced to watch throughout training camp, Blackmon said he has a "good feel" for his role within the system.

"Like a lot of the players have said, seeing it is one thing, but being out there is another, and the more reps I get, the more comfortable I will feel," he said. " I think it plays very well into my strengths of just being a guy who likes to make plays and being all over the field using my speed, but as well as using technique and just trusting that what the coaches are telling me is true. And, I mean, so far, they're NFL coaches for a reason, so honestly I think that it helps me a lot, just being in a lot of zone and being able to get my eyes on the quarterback."

And, of course, Blackmon's versatility will only help accelerate that process.

"It helps a lot, especially when it comes to man-to-man," Blackmon said. "I'm used to playing man-to-man. I mean, at Utah, that's all we did was play man-to-man, and it's just our guys vs. their guys. So it makes me comfortable knowing that if I have to come down and get matched up with a receiver or whoever it may be, I'll be able to handle my own just due to fact that I played corner."

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Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton:

» Hilton's rapport with Philip Rivers continues to grow: One of the primary questions heading into training camp this year was how long it would take for Hilton, the Colts' top receiver, to mesh with Rivers, the team's new starting quarterback.

Once Hilton was able to return from a small hamstring issue at the beginning of camp, however, it seemed as if he had been catching passes from Rivers for years. The two connected almost daily on significant passing plays all around the field, the most recent of which being a long bomb of about 50 yards down the sideline in Saturday's scrimmage at Lucas Oil Stadium.

And while the deep ball will always be part of his repertoire, Hilton has enjoyed Rivers' propensity for finding him out in the softer areas in perhaps more of the intermediate zones, where he can get the ball in his hands and do something with it.

"I mean, we had a couple throwing sessions where we kind of felt out one another," Hilton said of getting used to Rivers. "Right now we're just working hand-in-hand; he likes throwing in the soft spots and I like finding the soft spots, so in reality we're kind of like a perfect match. So as long as he continues to do that — find the soft spots in the defense and at least be able to get it to me and get it in my hands and let it work — the sky's the limit for us."

» Hilton continues to embrace being the veteran leader of the group: It wasn't long ago that Hilton was being mentored by another great Colts wide receiver, Reggie Wayne. Wayne, meanwhile, was just passing down the knowledge he learned from a great receiver in his early playing days: Marvin Harrison.

The great ones not only produce on the field, but they help get the next generation of players in position to do the same. Hilton's younger teammates at the wide receiver position — namely Michael Pittman Jr., Dezmon Patmon, Parris Campbell and Daurice Fountain — have raved about the opportunity to get any sort of knowledge Hilton has been able to throw their way.

For his part, Hilton is happy to help.

"I'm always teaching them when we're in meeting rooms, we get a little break, I'm always talking to them on certain things they should work on, certain routes they should take their time on — just being patient," Hilton said. "'Cause I know right now the game's pretty fast for them; coming up from college to the NFL it's fast, so my thing is just breaking it down for them and having them understand so when they go out there they're able to play freely.

"I'm just paying it forward," Hilton said. "Marv did it for Reg, Reg did it for me, so now it's time for me to pay it forward to the young guys."

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