INDIANAPOLIS — Tyquan Lewis is taking the first step needed to eventually make his NFL debut.
Lewis — one of the Indianapolis Colts' four second-round picks in this year's NFL Draft — will be returning to practice for the first time since being placed on injured reserve at the start of the regular season, head coach Frank Reich told reporters today.
Lewis was a highly-touted and productive defensive lineman during his college career at Ohio State, where he excelled playing both inside and outside along the defensive line.
Colts general manager Chris Ballard envisioned a similar role for Lewis in his team's new 4-3 base defensive scheme — in which high-energy, productive playmakers up front are a premium — and selected him in the second round (64th overall) in April's draft.
Lewis sat out most of the Colts' offseason workout program with an injury, but made his return during training camp, and was just starting to work his way into the various defensive lineups when he suffered a toe injury "that just wouldn't go away," Ballard told reporters at the time.
Lewis would miss the entire preseason and was placed on injured reserve at the start of the regular season on Sept. 3, with the hope that he could eventually become one of two players the team could return off IR later in the year.
"It stinks, man, because the kid's really talented," Ballard said last month. "And we were excited, especially early in camp, about what he was doing at the three (technique), and really thought on rush downs he was going to be one of our what our defensive coaches call our green package, where we're going to try to get our four best rushers on the field."
The Colts' defense has performed well up front through seven weeks of the season, as the unit is third in the league in tackles for loss (43) and is tied for fourth in the NFL in sacks (21). That has helped Indy rank third among all teams in takeaways (15), nine of which were interceptions in the back end caused, in many cases, by a healthy push up front.
All the while, head coach Frank Reich and his staff have wondered just what heights the group could reach with a guy as talented as Lewis in the fold.
Once Lewis returns to practice, the Colts will face a 21-day deadline to decide whether he is healthy enough to bring back to the active roster, or revert him to the IR list for the rest of the season. The team now has one more return-from-IR spot it can utilize the rest of the season.
The Colts last season brought tackle/guard Denzelle Good, placed on IR after Week 1 with a wrist injury, back to the active roster later on in the season and attempted to do the same with tight end Erik Swoope (knee), but the team determined Swoope just wasn't going to be ready by the 21-day deadline, and he reverted to IR for the remainder of the year.