INDIANAPOLIS — T.Y. Hilton made no bones about it.
If he can play, he's going to play.
He expressed the sentiment to reporters on Wednesday, as he continues working his way back from a nagging calf injury that has been responsible for keeping him off the field for five of the Indianapolis Colts' last six games.
Some might look at the way the Colts' season has unfolded down the stretch — they head into Monday night's Week 15 matchup against the New Orleans Saints at 6-7 on the year, needing a win to avoid being totally eliminated from the playoff picture — as enough reason for Hilton to just take it easy the rest of the way.
But Hilton disagrees with that notion.
"It's just tough watching; it's something I'm not used to, so I'm doing everything I can to get back," Hilton said. "So I'll continue doing that, and if it's this week, next week, the week after, you know, I'm going to give it all. Just trying to get back out there with them."
Hilton on Thursday was able to return to the field for the first time since re-aggravating his calf injury in practice 15 days ago; head coach Frank Reich said the team's top receiver was expected to be a limited participant in what was already a "modified practice" as the team shifts its schedule to prepare for a rare Monday night game.
Reich said the team will "proceed with caution" when it comes to Hilton — as well as Pierre Desir (groin; limited on Thursday) and Kenny Moore II (ankle; did not practice), the team's top two cornerbacks,
But reading Hilton's comments about wanting to play out the season, regardless of the team's playoff hopes, "made me smile about the kind of competitor and leader he is," Reich said.
"Well, No. 1, it's just who he is. I mean, it's just who he is," Reich continued. "I mean, he's just a competitor. He's a leader. That's why he's one of the leaders of this team. That's why guys look up to him, that's why he's done what he's done in his career, that's why he's been a consistent player.
"But, secondly, I would say we're gonna protect him against himself, too. So if by chance he's out there, it's only going to be because we think he is 100 percent."
Hilton, who said he's "doing way better" than he felt last week, is perfectly on board with that plan.
"I'm just continuing to be cautious, but at the same time, if I'm feeling good, then I can continue to take the next step," he said. "So that's my main thing right now: just continue feeling better. If I feel better the next couple days, then I should be fine."
The end of every regular season brings with it all kinds of possible milestones to be attained, either from a team or individual perspective.
In Marlon Mack's case, he stands just 100 yards shy of his first-career 1,000-yard rushing season.
The third-year running back, who missed just two games with a broken right hand before returning last Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has a decent shot to get there on Monday night against a Saints defense that ranks 20th in the league against the run, allowing 4.3 yards per carry.
But while the run game will always be a primary focus for Reich and the Colts' offense, the second-year head coach said getting Mack to 1,000 yards, at this point, isn't something that's dictating the gameplan.
"I mean, if it comes, it comes," Reich said. "I do keep an eye on those things as the season comes to an end. You're not gameplanning towards that, you're not calling it towards that. Now's not the time for that.
"Usually that comes into play the last game of the year. At this point, it comes zero percent into play," Reich continued. "But I'm not gonna lie: as a player and as a coach, I've been in situations where that does come into play — when it can, in the last game of the year."
Mack this season has 205 rushing attempts for 900 yards and five touchdowns; he enters Week 15 ranked 11th in the league in rushing yards, despite missing 2 1/2 games with a broken hand.
Offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said it's "just a matter of time" before Mack hits the 1,000-yard mark, which will be celebrated by everyone on the offensive side of the ball.
"We are going to do everything we can do to get him that 1,000 yards," Sirianni said. "That is a great thing for Marlon to have, and everybody takes pride in that. I know that the offensive line will be excited when that happens. As coaches we will be excited, the receivers will be excited and the tight ends will be excited."
Here's the full injury report from Thursday's practice:
» DNP: CB Kenny Moore II (ankle)
» Limited: CB Pierre Desir (groin); WR T.Y. Hilton (calf)
» Full: N/A