NEW ORLEANS — T.Y. Hilton is back for a little primetime action.
The Indianapolis Colts wide receiver, who has missed the team's last two games, and five of its last six, with a nagging calf injury, is active for tonight's Week 15 road matchup against the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football.
In fact, Hilton and top cornerback Pierre Desir, the two Colts players listed as questionable heading into tonight's game, are both active.
Among those inactive for Indy tonight are tackle/guard Le'Raven Clark, guard Jake Eldrenkamp, quarterback Chad Kelly, cornerback Kenny Moore II, linebacker E.J. Speed, tight end Ross Travis and wide receiver Chad Williams.
Hilton initially suffered his calf injury during a non-contact portion of practice on Oct. 30, causing him to miss the Colts' next three games against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars. He was able to return to play a limited role Week 12 against the Houston Texans, playing 25 offensive snaps and catching three passes for 18 yards, but general manager Chris Ballard announced Nov. 28 that Hilton suffered a setback with his calf during practice and was being considered week-to-week.
Hilton, has missed the Colts' last two games against the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, returned to practice this past week as a limited participant on Thursday and Friday, but did not participate on Saturday. Head coach Frank Reich said that Hilton "got good work in" throughout the week, but would only consider putting the receiver back on the field if he was at 100 percent.
"That is the bar," Reich said. "We kind of been down this road before and he wasn't there. I know it's T.Y., but we just want to feel good about it. We just want to do the right thing, make sure that he feels right and that we feel like he's good."
Reich said if Hilton did indeed make his way back for tonight's game, then he was not expected to be on any sort of pitch count.
"If he plays he's 100 percent," Reich said. "In my mind if he's playing there is going to be no pitch count."
Hilton has experienced an injury-plagued 2019 season; prior to his calf issue, he missed three games over Weeks 3-5 with a quad injury. He's been effective as usual when he has been able to get on the field, however; in seven games, he has 35 receptions for 378 yards and five touchdowns.
Hilton being back in the fold should be a solid shot in the arm for a Colts receiver corps that has been banged up throughout the season. Three top Indy receivers — Devin Funchess, Chester Rogers and Parris Campbell — have already been placed on injured reserve.
Zach Pascal, who has 35 receptions for 547 yards and five touchdowns on the year, has led the group with Hilton sidelined, while Marcus Johnson has also been effective since being brought back to the active roster back in Week 10; he's coming off his first-career 100-yard receiving performance last Sunday against the Buccaneers, and has 12 receptions for 207 yards and a touchdown in five games in all.
The Colts this past week also brought back veteran wide receiver Dontrelle Inman, 30, who finished with 28 receptions for 304 yards and three touchdowns over the final nine games for the team last season.
Like Hilton's availability for the offense, Desir's availability for the Colts' defense tonight is nothing but good news against one of the top passing attacks in the league.
Led once again by future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, the Saints average 261.4 passing yards per game, ranking eighth in the NFL.
With their other starting cornerback, Moore II (ankle), out for a second straight game, the Colts will need all the help they can get against New Orleans wide receiver Michael Thomas, who is off to a historic start; he leads the league in receptions (121) and receiving yards (1,424), and is on pace to break legendary Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison's NFL single-season receptions record of 143 set back in 2002.
"I just think they do a good job of isolating him and moving him around," Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said of Thomas. "You say, 'You should be able to do this to that player and take away that player.' That's what you'd like to do, but again when you move people around a lot of times that's harder to do because they are putting him on the move and those types of things. They do a great job with their scheme and that's why they're able to get him the football like they do."
Desir (groin) initially appeared on the Colts' injury report on Thursday. He was a limited participant the first two days of practice, but had upgraded to full participation by Saturday.