INDIANAPOLIS — Whether it's a new starting quarterback and a some exciting rookies on the offensive side of the ball, a new, dominating presence up front leading the way for a young and talented defensive unit or a brand new kicker handling field goals and extra points, there are plenty of storylines to watch as the Indianapolis Colts enter the first week of the 2020 regular season.
Fortunately for the Colts, the injury report is not among the more notable storylines as the team prepares for Sunday's season opener on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
But that doesn't mean there aren't at least a few injury-related items that bear monitoring for the team over the next few weeks.
Here's the latest on tight end Trey Burton, defensive end Kemoko Turay and defensive tackle Sheldon Day.
New IR rules
First off, it's important to note some new rules regarding injured reserve that the league put in place specifically for the 2020 season:
» Previously, teams could designate up to two players to return from IR each season; the new CBA that was ratified by the NFLPA earlier this year increased that number to three return-from IR players per season for each team moving forward. But the league granted much more flexibility in this area for this year only in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, teams may return an unlimited number of players as long as they are on the regular season roster and placed on IR no sooner than 4 p.m. ET yesterday.
» Another change just for this year: in any other season, players who are put on IR have to sit out at least eight games before they can return from practice; from there, the team has 21 days to decide whether to return that player to the active roster or revert them to IR for the remainder of the season. This year only, those on IR have to sit out just three games before they can return to practice (the 21-day rule thereafter remains).
» Burton suffered a calf injury in the Colts' second training camp scrimmage at Lucas Oil Stadium on Aug. 29. Head coach Frank Reich had mentioned last week that the initial belief was Burton would miss at least the first couple weeks of the regular season, so now the team is trying to nail down a more exact potential return date due to the roster implications.
General manager Chris Ballard said Sunday the team is going to give the situation a little more time to develop before making a decision. If the Colts do not place Burton on IR, then he'll remain on the active roster and be on the inactive list on gameday until he returns; if the Colts do place Burton on IR, then he has to sit out at least three games.
Burton, who signed a reported one-year free agent deal with the Colts this offseason, had emerged as a favorite target of new quarterback Philip Rivers' throughout training camp. While the team also returns Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox this season, the team on Saturday claimed tight end Noah Togiai off waivers from the Philadelphia Eagles to help add depth at the position until Burton can return.
» Turay suffered a broken ankle Week 5 last season late in the Colts' road victory over the Kansas City Chiefs; the injury was serious enough to require major surgery. He entered training camp this year on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, but was unable to get back on the practice field. On Saturday, the Colts placed Turay on the Reserve/PUP list, meaning he won't count against the active roster, but he will be required to sit out at least the first six games of the season.
Ballard said Sunday that Turay has worked hard in his recovery and rehab work to get himself into position to return to the field, but that the COVID-19 pandemic made it more difficult for Turay to fully rehab his injury earlier this year. So because he's still feeling a little bit of pain and isn't ready to return to the practice field, the team wants to give Turay the appropriate amount of time to get right as he hits the nine-month post-surgery mark.
"Just, at the end of the day, he's not ready. And we're not going to put a guy out there that's not ready," Ballard said. "So we're going to shoot for six weeks from now to try to get him back. He's still having some pain in that ankle. He's rehabbing hit butt off and working his butt off — trainers are doing a really good job with him. But he's just not there yet."
At the time of his injury last season, Turay had become one of the more productive pass rushers in the NFL for the first few weeks of the year. He had five tackles, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble, five quarterback hits and eight hurries, and after Week 5 he was tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers' T.J. Watt as Pro Football Focus' highest-graded edge defender, while his 91.0 pass-rush grade trailed only Watt and the Cleveland Browns' Myles Garrett.
» Day's injury status is a little more cut-and-dry. He suffered a knee injury early in training camp that required a procedure, Reich said, and never was able to participate in any of the team's fully-padded practices.
Day was placed on IR on Sunday, meaning he has to sit out at least the first three games of the season.
The fifth-year Notre Dame product — and Indianapolis native — also reportedly signed a one-year free agent deal with the Colts this offseason to help bolster the interior of the defensive line. With Day on IR for at least the first few weeks, look for DeForest Buckner, Grover Stewart, Denico Autry, Tyquan Lewis and Taylor Stallworth to handle the load up front.
The Colts also have three defensive tackles — rookies Kameron Cline, Chris Williams and Rob Windsor — on their practice squad if needed.