Colts coach Frank Reich says quarterback Carson Wentz will return to practice Monday
Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich said Sunday evening that starting quarterback Carson Wentz (foot) will return to practice on Monday. The same goes for All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson (foot) and Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly (elbow).
Wentz will be limited in his return, Reich said, but the fact that he is ready to get back onto the practice field is a highly encouraging first step toward his being available for the Sept. 12, 2021 season-opener against the Seattle Seahawks.
To be clear, Reich did not say Wentz is back at 100% health or that he would be anytime soon. In fact, at the time Wentz injured his foot, Reich said that in all likelihood, the 28-year-old quarterback will have to play through some pain upon return.
"Knowing this is the type of injury you don’t have to be pain-free to play with," Reich said, "I know Carson’s level of toughness. I know he can play with pain.”
Reich did not specify Sunday, which parts of practice Wentz will take part in, saying only that he'll be doing "some things." Regardless of activity, the Colts have to be thrilled that Wentz is ready to return to practice so soon in any capacity.
The Colts quarterback participated in just two days of Colts training camp before have surgery to remove a bone fragment from his foot three weeks ago, Monday (Aug. 2). Ahead of the surgery, Reich and the Colts put the timetable for his return between five and 12 weeks.
While that window was large, the Colts have remained steadfastly optimistic he could return on the front end of it since the surgery, which went exactly as the team had hoped.
“Very successful surgery,” Reich said on Aug. 3. “Best-case scenario. What’s that mean? It means you go in, you remove the (piece of) bone that was in there, you look around, and there was nothing else going on. That was good news, and now it’s all about the rehab process.”
Clearly the rehab process has been going quite well for Wentz. The quarterback shed his walking boot last week and recently started participating in team walk-throughs. At practice, Wentz has not looked like an athlete hampered by an injury. In fact he's looked like someone who is exceedingly eager to get back to work with his team.
“He’s getting very antsy. Very antsy,” Reich said. “He’s wanting to push the envelope, as I would expect. But he’s gotta be patient and just stay focused on the mental side of it right now and we gotta let things take their course. But at the same time, there’s a time to push things and we’ll keep doing that as it’s appropriate.”
Last week, Reich said that in an ideal world, Wentz would have two weeks of practice under his belt before playing a game, though he could theoretically play with just one. There are three weeks to go before Week 1.
Wentz's return to full practice participation and game-readiness will hinge on how his foot responds to increased activity in the coming weeks. So far, he hasn't had any setbacks in his recovery.
There remains a lot for Wentz to accomplish physically before the Colts are going to feel good about him suiting up. Team owner Jim Irsay has been adamant that Wentz should be "100%" before playing.
"In talking to Carson, I said, 'Look it, you have to be right,'” Irsay said. “We want you 100%. Don’t rush it back. I know he’s such a competitor and wants to be there for his team, but he has to help us all by only coming back when he’s ready-ready. Because we want to see him healthy for two months and two years and four years and do all those sorts of things. … He’s such a tough competitor, and you just want to see him ready when he comes back. If that’s Seattle, so be it. If not, it’s when he’s ready."
If Wentz isn't ready for the opener against the Seahawks, it remains unclear who might start in his stead. After underwhelming performances Saturday night in Minnesota, neither Jacob Eason nor rookie Sam Ehlinger has seized control of the backup quarterback competition.
Reich did not reveal which of his young passers he believes is leading the competition, simply stating they are both "in the same zip code." He also did not reveal which of the quarterbacks he plans to start on Friday in Detroit. He cautioned that no matter who is tabbed to start, that doesn't necessarily mean that quarterback is leading the competition.
"That would be the natural (conclusion)," Reich said, "and I’m not saying that’s not true but I’m not saying that it is true. You know what I mean? ... As we talked it through today, there’s a lot of dynamics at play here, and we’re just trying to do what’s best for the team and what’s best in light of the whole context of the situation. So, you could read that into it but I don’t think it’s an absolute.”
When determining the winner, Reich promised, it will be after a thorough evaluation of each quarterback's entire body of work -- not just one game. Each has done things the Colts like, and each has made mistakes.
Ultimately though, the Colts are hoping that the winner of the backup competition ends up being largely meaningless. The best-case scenario -- and one that looks increasingly likely now -- is that Wentz is ready to play Week 1.