The 2021 season for the Indianapolis Colts has not gotten off to the start that head coach Frank Reich had wanted to say the least.
First, Reich had to spend the first four days of training camp away from the team as he tested positive for COVID-19.
Next, on the second day of camp, new starting quarterback Carson Wentz injures his left foot on a rollout play, leading to surgery on the foot that will keep him out 5-12 weeks.
After that, with Reich returning to practice on Monday, All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson injures his right foot in a very similar fashion to Wentz and will have surgery with a 5-12 week recovery as well.
Reich dove into the specifics when speaking to former Colts All-Pro punter Pat McAfee on The Pat McAfee Show Tuesday.
“You have the fluke injury with Carson from an old high school injury,” Reich said. “And we report that, he has the surgery, and then the same day he’s getting his surgery, Quenton leaves practice early. We get off the field, talk to the trainers and get the word that this might be the same, essentially the same injury that Carson had. So, we get all the tests, talk to the doctors, and essentially need the same procedure.”
It would be understandable if Reich was a little concerned about his football team considering two of the most important players to the Colts’ success are now looking at possibly missing quite a bit of time. However, Reich was his cool, calm self and remains very optimistic about the injury timelines of Wentz and Nelson.
“It’s all good Pat, we’ll be fine,” Reich said when asked his level of concern. “The good news is we’re very optimistic, just like we are with Carson. We’re very optimistic about the timeframe. It is a big range, as you heard me say it’s 5-12 weeks so that’s a big range, but we’re optimistic on the front end.”
The cause for optimism may come as a result of the Wentz surgery. Reich revealed that it was a “best case scenario” as there was no other damage within Wentz’s foot and they were able to extract the bone without any issues. A firmer timeline will be established in the coming weeks as both Wentz and Nelson heal and begin the rehab process.
Obviously, with Wentz out, the quarterback conversation turns to Jacob Eason. Eason has taken over the starting reps, and Reich noted how big of an opportunity this is for the second-year player out of Washington.
“This is a massive time for him,” Reich said when talking about Eason. “And he knows that. He’s approaching it the right way. He’s in the driver’s seat right now, and all we’re asking him to do is get a little bit better every day. In some ways, we’ve had two offseasons that he really hasn’t had normal offseasons. But he’s done a good job last year during the season learning from Philip Rivers and Jacoby Brissett, but now it’s speed reading time. Now it’s accelerated learning time. And every one of these reps is very valuable.”
The plan for Eason is to give him as many reps as possible during camp and also play a considerable amount during preseason games. Reich speculated that Eason will play at least a half in the first preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, and look for him to get plenty of live-action in the other games as well. The Colts want to prepare him as best as they can in case Wentz is not back by Week One.
But through all of the madness and injury hysteria surrounding the Colts, Reich is not wavering. The calming demeanor that he possesses will be huge as the Colts approach the season.
“We’re good. We talk about ‘Hey we’ve got a little bit of adversity early on,’ and the big thing that we talked about was just don’t overreact, just don’t overreact. And the way to not overreact is to just to stay focused on the mission at hand, and that’s to get better every day, become a team in training camp that puts the work in, creates the substance, the foundation to have a great season. And that’s what we believe we’re doing.”
Reich is going to be under a lot of pressure this year. Whether it is helping to restore the career of Wentz or preparing Eason to be the starter, Reich will be a major key in whatever quarterback is leading the Colts. But when you are going on your fifth and sixth starting quarterbacks in four years, it seems par for the course for the Colts’ head coach.
Reich will continue to be calm and optimistic about the situation, and that is what the team needs. The Colts have a very talented roster and have high expectations for 2021. A little adversity in the beginning may just help them climb the mountain in the end.
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