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Colts GM Chris Ballard Press Conference Takeaways: T.Y. Hilton, Sam Ehlinger To Injured Reserve; Thoughts On Mike Strachan, Ben Banogu And Jacob Eason

Colts general manager Chris Ballard discussed a wide range of topics on Wednesday, including the statuses of a few injured players. 

Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton underwent neck surgery this week and will be placed on injured reserve, general manager Chris Ballard said Wednesday. 

"It was not a major procedure," Ballard said. "It was something to give him some relief. It wasn't really intrusive, and he's good. It was instant relief for him."

The 31-year-old Hilton is entering his 10th season with the Colts and is 640 receiving yards away from having 10,000 in his career (if he were to hit that mark in 2021, the Colts would become the first franchise in NFL history to have three 10,000-yard receivers, with Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne the other two). 

A player on injured reserve is required to miss a minimum of three games. There's no timetable for Hilton's return yet, but Ballard expressed confidence in the veteran receiver's return. 

"One thing I know about T.Y., he's a pretty quick healer, and I think he'll be back whenever he's ready to go," Ballard said. "I think it's always sooner than later."

Additionally, quarterback Sam Ehlinger will be placed on injured reserve following a knee injury suffered in last week's preseason finale against the Detroit Lions. Ballard also said the Colts are evaluating an injury to Dezmon Patmon to determine if the second-year wide receiver will go on injured reserve or not. 

Good Progress For Wentz, Fisher

Both Carson Wentz and Eric Fisher are on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, but Ballard said he and the Colts have been pleased with both players' progress as they work their way back from their respective injuries. 

On Wentz, Ballard said: "When he gets back we'll continue to monitor where he's at but he's making really good progress."

And on Fisher, when asked if he'd be added to the active 53-man roster upon coming off the Reserve/COVID-19 list: "I won't give an exact timetable but we really like the progress he's made. When he gets back out here we'll kind of monitor it and go from there."

Young Colts On Encouraging Trajectory Entering Season

Ballard discussed three players who were question marks entering training camp but stood out during the preseason: Quarterback Jacob Eason, wide receiver Mike Strachan and defensive end Ben Banogu. 

On Eason: "He made really good strides," Ballard said. "I think you all saw that too. Last year was such a — not being able to get him any preseason work and really he was the third string quarterback, so minimal reps all year, but what he got was a PHD watching Philip Rivers play the game. But now you gotta go do it, it's different — you can sit in a meeting room and you can sit in practice, but playing in games is a whole different level. 

"And it was pretty cool to watch from Game 1 to Game 2 to Game 3, the game started to slow down for him. And I think that's going to be his biggest challenge here going forward is to continue to play the game. The game's gotta get a little slower and he's gotta player faster. I think he'll continue, the more reps he gets, the better he'll get at it."

On Strachan: "He's coming along. He's got a ways to go. But he's a big, talented guy," Ballard said. "It's always interesting in training camp with the young players that they'll start out really fast and then reality hits them of the daily work that has to be put in, they're not used to the workload, they're not used to the workload, they're not used to the volume that they're getting so you'll see a little bit of a dip, and then all of a sudden they'll spike up again, which I thought we started to see with him. 

"He's a big, talented athlete that has ball skills that's still learning how to play. So we'll see. We'll start him out in small doses and then we'll see how he handles it. The more he produces, the more he'll get the ball."

And on Banogu: "Much better. It's fun when you watch a guy get confidence," Ballard said. "Ben, it's never been — he's always cared, he's always given good effort. Then you gotta start having success. It's been fun to watch Ben compete. He plays hard, he's starting to gain some confidence. Ben's going to help us. … He's always played hard, but it was early in camp he had some success and I think it just bled over to the next day."

Other notes

  • The Colts only have three tight ends on their 53-man roster right now (Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson), while tight end Farrod Green is on the practice squad. Ballard said the Colts like the tight ends on the roster right now, but added "it's a position we'll constantly keep our eyes on." 
  • On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Colts carrying 11 defensive linemen, which Ballard said is the product of wanting to make sure the team doesn't "go short there" early in the season. 
  • Ballard said the 53-man roster will be "pretty fluid here for a few days," so stay tuned for more transactions as things get settled ahead of preparation for the Seattle Seahawks beginning in earnest on Labor Day. 

The Last Word

Ballard on defensive tackle DeForest Buckner: "I can't say enough good things about Buckner. What luck, really. What luck. Human being, leader, worker, player. Everything. All of it. We're here in Indy but this guy is as good as any defensive player in the National Football League. 

"… He's in unbelievable shape — even better shape than he was last year, because we track all that pretty hard. I don't know, I think the sky's the limit. I think he's got defensive player of the year capabilities."

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