T.Y. Hilton has experienced a wide range of emotions since suffering a serious neck injury before the start of the regular season.
Hilton, who spoke to reporters on Thursday, a day after he was designated to return from the injured reserve list, said a disk was blocking a nerve in his neck, causing him to lose all feeling on the left side of his body.
The resulting surgery didn't initially offer much relief — at least mentally, as Hilton said at times he feared he had played his last game of football.
"I didn't think I'd be back," he said.
Then came the Indianapolis Colts' 2021 season opener on Sept. 12 against the Seattle Seahawks — a day the veteran wide receiver said he woke up in tears due to his inability to contribute to the team.
Slowly, but surely, however, Hilton's prospects have been improving. He practiced on Wednesday for the first time since suffering his injury in training camp, starting a 21-day window for the team to decide whether he returns to the active roster or reverts him to IR for the rest of the season.
Hilton said Thursday it's too early in the week to say whether or not he'll be good to go to make his 2021 debut on Sunday at home against the Houston Texans, but there are few doubts about "The Ghost's" desires to haunt his old division rival once again to get Halloween week started off on the right foot.
"Everybody knows when 13 is out there, we're a different team," Hilton said with a smile.
Whenever Hilton does return, he'll undoubtedly provide a solid shot in the arm to an offense that has seemingly made positive strides each week this season. On Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens, the Colts registered 513 total net yards, their highest total in a single game since Week 3 of the 2014 season at Jacksonville (529).
Hilton will also work on continuing to build chemistry with another new quarterback in Carson Wentz. The two had some fireworks between them before Hilton's injury during training camp, and Wentz certainly seems to be settling into his new setting, after registering single-game career-highs on Monday in passing yards (402), passer rating (128.5) and yards per attempt (11.49).
"It's exciting for me, it's exciting for the whole team," Wentz said of Hilton's return on Wednesday. "We all know and everybody knows the kind of player he is on the field, but even more-so in the locker room, who he is as a leader. Guys rally around him. Seeing him in the huddle even just in the walkthrough today got me a little excited."
For now, Hilton said he'll leave it up to team personnel to make the final call on his availability, though he's certainly thrilled to be back on the field with his teammates once again.
"If the doctors say I'm good, then I'm good," Hilton said. "If not, then I'm not."
Paye to return
While we await word on Hilton's potential return, another key player on the other side of the ball is expecting to be back against the Texans on Sunday.
Defensive end Kwity Paye, the Colts' 2021 first-round draft pick out of Michigan, told reporters Thursday he expects to make his return Sunday against the Texans after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury.
Paye said there was a chance he could've returned for Monday night's game against the Ravens, but the decision was made not to push the injury and give it just a few more days to heal.
"It wasn't quite there," he said.
Paye, who suffered the injury early in the Colts' Week 3 loss to the Tennessee Titans, has played 89 total snaps this season, compiling eight tackles and two quarterback hurries. In limited action, he has earned a run-stopping grade of 80.0 from Pro Football Focus, and a 74.2 defensive grade overall.
The Indy defense will lean on Paye to add a jolt to its defensive front; the Colts through five games rank 20th in the NFL in hurries (53) and 31st in quarterback hits (10).
The Colts on Thursday officially brought back a familiar face to add some reinforcements, if needed, at the kicker position.
The team announced the signing of kicker Michael Badgley to its practice squad; in a corresponding move, the team released center Joey Hunt from the practice squad.
It's possible Badgley's services could be needed on Sunday against the Texans after kicker Rodrigo Blankenship said he suffered a hip injury during warmups of Monday's game against the Ravens. Blankenship would end up missing three kicks in the contest — two field goals (one of which was blocked) and an extra-point attempt.
Badgley actually entered the NFL with the Colts as an undrafted free agent back in May 2018, participating in the team's offseason program and training camp. He has since played in 35 career games in his time with the Titans (2021) and Los Angeles Chargers (2018-20) and has converted 52-of-66 field goals and 83-of-88 extra points for 239 points.
Thursday's practice report
Check back later this afternoon for Thursday's Colts practice report.