The Colts got their ghost back with two weeks to spare before Halloween.
T.Y. Hilton was activated from injured reserve Saturday, meaning the veteran wide receiver is eligible to make his season debut Sunday against the Houston Texans. The Colts also placed kicker Rodrigo Blankenship on injured reserve and elevated kicker Michael Badgley and safety Jordan Lucas to the active roster from the practice squad for Sunday's game.
Hilton was placed on injured reserve in early September following neck surgery and returned to practice on Wednesday.
That timeline didn't provide the 31-year-old Hilton many opportunities to practice ahead of his potential season debut, especially considering the Colts held a walkthrough practice Wednesday and a "jog-through" on Thursday. But head coach Frank Reich on Friday didn't doubt Hilton's readiness if he was cleared to return.
"Considering his experience, his competitiveness and just who he is, his leadership – if there is anyone who can do it," Reich said, "it's him."
Hilton detailed on Thursday his "scary" neck injury – a disc was blocking a nerve in his neck, and because of it he lost all feeling in the left side of his body. But Reich said once the neck issue was resolved, the issue became getting Hilton physically ready to play – and if Hilton were to be cleared, there would be no restrictions on how much he could play in his season debut.
"He's taken good care of himself," Reich said. "He works hard, I mean that guy works hard. He's in shape, he stays in shape. He does everything possible to help this team. I feel good about where he's at."
Hilton is 640 yards shy of 10,000 in his career – which, if he hits that mark in Indianapolis, would make the Colts the only team in NFL history to have 10,000-plus-yard receivers (Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne blew past that mark during their careers with the Colts). He'll make his season debut with 608 catches and 50 touchdowns over 133 games since the Colts picked him in the third round (92nd overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Getting Hilton back certainly feels like a boost to the Colts both on and off the field.
"Everybody knows what kind of player he is on the field, but even more so in the locker room and who he is as a leader," quarterback Carson Wentz said. "Guys really rally around him."
There's a little bit of serendipity in the timing of Hilton's return, too, given it's coming against a Texans team he's spooked in 18 career games:
- 97 receptions
- 1,718 yards
- 95 yards/game
- 11 touchdowns
Those are all easily career highs for Hilton against any team – the next highest numbers are 78 receptions (vs. Jacksonville), 1,235 yards (vs. Jacksonville) and six touchdowns (vs. Tennessee).
The Colts have been pleased with how their wide receivers have stepped up in Hilton's absence. Michael Pittman Jr. is on pace for just shy of 100 receptions this season and Zach Pascal, Parris Campbell and Ashton Dulin have been key parts of a Colts' passing attack that's been trending upward over the last few weeks.
But getting The Ghost back will only help the Colts' offense spook opposing defenses.
"Everybody knows when 13 is out there," Hilton grinned, "we're a different team."