INDIANAPOLIS — Some reinforcements could be headed the Indianapolis Colts' way soon.
Tight end Trey Burton and defensive tackle Sheldon Day, both of whom were placed on injured reserve at the beginning of the season, are being brought back to practice today, head coach Frank Reich told reporters.
The team now has a 21-day window for both players to decide whether to return them to the active roster or revert them to IR for the rest of the season.
By returning both Burton and Day to practice this week, the Colts are able to take advantage of some relaxed roster rules in place exclusively for the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To help teams adapt to the potential roster issues that could pop up with the virus, the NFL and the NFLPA agreed to a few adjustments to various roster rules just for this season, most notably an expansion of practice squads from 10 players to 16 players and significant changes to the return-from-IR stipulations.
Previously, teams could only elect to return up to two players per season from IR; in 2020, teams have an unlimited number of return-from-IR spots it can use. Also, the length of time a player is required to be on IR before they can return was reduced from eight games to three — meaning both Burton and Day could technically make their 2020 debuts as soon as this Sunday's Week 4 road matchup against the Chicago Bears.
» Burton signed a reported one-year free agent deal with the Colts this offseason, reuniting him with Reich, his offensive coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016 and 2017. He signed a free agent deal with the Bears in 2018 and would go on to have a career year in his first season in Chicago, catching 54 passes for 569 yards and six touchdowns. He would have an injury-plagued second season with the Bears in 2019, however; in eight games played, he finished with 14 receptions for 84 yards, and he was released by the team in April.
Burton had emerged as a favorite target of new Colts quarterback Philip Rivers' throughout training camp before suffering a calf injury in the team's second camp scrimmage at Lucas Oil Stadium on Aug. 29.
Burton's potential return will only boost what is already a strong tight end position for the Colts, as the team already has two-time Pro Bowler Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox, who has 10 receptions for 181 yards and a touchdown already this season. The Colts also have undrafted rookie Noah Togiai on their 53-man roster.
» Day 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 before being placed on IR at the beginning 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. Day, who entered the league in 2016 as a fourth-round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars, has played in 56 career games with two starts with the Jaguars (2016-17) and San Francisco 49ers (2017-19), and has accumulated 53 tackles (38 solo), 14.0 tackles for loss, 6.0 sacks and four passes defensed.
Day was also a key member of the 49ers' postseason run in 2019, when they advanced all the way to Super Bowl LIV. He started all three of San Francisco's playoff games last season, tallying three tackles (two solo) and 1.0 tackle for loss.
Day could help add strong depth to a strong interior group up front for the Colts that includes DeForest Buckner, Grover Stewart, Taylor Stallworth, Denico Autry, Tyquan Lewis and Eli Ankou. Indy also has three defensive tackles — Kameron Cline, Chris Williams and Rob Windsor — on its practice squad.