INDIANAPOLIS – Quarterback injuries have pretty much defined the Indianapolis Colts since Andrew Luck’s shoulder injury first popped up in 2015.
The 2012 No. 1 overall pick missed nine games that season, then sat out all of 2017 before retiring two weeks before the 2019 season began. A knee injury knocked Jacoby Brissett out of one start in 2019, and Philip Rivers played the second half of the 2020 season with a toe injury serious enough to require postseason surgery.
So Carson Wentz’s struggles already this year – a foot injury sidelined him for three weeks during training camp, and his status is uncertain for Sunday’s game at the Tennessee Titans because of sprains in both ankles – sets off all the familiar alarms.
It’s been an inconvenient feature of the 28-year-old’s career. He missed a total of 12 games over five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles before arriving in a March trade.
The risk-reward balance inherent in Wentz’s mobile playing style is a constant source of discussion. That’s even more true in the wake of the injuries the quarterback suffered during last week’s 27-24 loss against the Los Angeles Rams.
“It’s always a fine line, and I’ll probably be answering that question probably my whole career,” Wentz said. “Just trying to find that delicate balance of being aggressive, extending plays and knowing when to just say die and let the play die. I don’t think really (the tackle by Aaron Donald that injured the right ankle last week) is really an example of that, but it’s always something you can learn from some other plays within a game.
“Whether it’s good or bad, I’m always analyzing where I could be better and protect myself so at the end of the day I can be available every Sunday.”
Colts head coach Frank Reich routinely praises his quarterback’s toughness and saw him play through many ailments during their two seasons together in Philadelphia.
He said the burden of protection does not fall on the quarterback alone. The offensive line has not played up to its high standards through the first two games this season, surrendering six sacks and 21 quarterback hits.
That kind of beating inevitably takes a toll, but there are other ways to protect the passer.
Under Reich in 2018, Luck got rid of the ball notably faster and took less punishment than at any other point in his career. There are times when Wentz holds on to the ball too long trying to make something happen, but the head coach said those instances need to be judged on a snap-by-snap basis.
“Sometimes we’ve got stuff that’s in our quick-rhythm plan where – bam -- it’s out in 2.5 seconds,” Reich said. “We’ve got other stuff where it’s more seven-step drop, where it’s going to be closer to three (seconds). It just depends. Then there are going to be shot plays where, ‘Guys, we need an extra count here.’
“There were plays last week (where) we were waiting to take a shot, waiting until No. 99 (Donald) wasn’t on the field. He plays most of the downs, but let’s see if we can wait. If he’s off the field, then you think about stuff like that. I don’t do that for very many guys, but he’s a guy you do that for. So, yeah, it just depends.”
Wentz understands the importance of answering the bell each week. But the injuries he’s suffered so far this season don’t really fall on him.
The foot injury happened on a non-contact snap in training camp, and he threw the ball away after a short rollout on the hit that injured his right ankle.
That doesn’t mean he isn’t constantly weighing the risk-reward balance in his head. Or that he expects to find a definitive answer for that balance any time soon.
“I don’t think anybody can ever fully answer that question because as competitors, you never want to worry about an injury,” Wentz said. “You never want to worry about ‘If I do this.’ You don’t want to second-guess yourself out there, but at the same time, you want to be smart.
“You want to be smart. You want to be available. You want to be out there with your guys, so it’s a constant analysis every game.”
THEY SAID IT
“I mean it bites at times on certain movements, but you fight through the pain and find a way to get the job done. That’s what I’ve been taught my whole life. You don’t make excuses. You find solutions and just go out and play. I’m so dedicated to the game. You love the game so much, and you want to be out there and make sure you do enough to help this team win and make sure you make enough plays to get the defense off the field.” – linebacker Darius Leonard on whether his injured ankle is affecting his play
Leonard, linebacker Jordan Glasgow (concussion), right tackle Braden Smith (foot) and quarterback Carson Wentz (ankles) did not participate in Thursday’s practice. It was the second straight day on the sideline for everyone but Leonard.
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (calf) returned on a limited basis, and wide receiver Parris Campbell (abdomen) was limited for the second day in a row.
Safety Julian Blackmon (shoulder) and wide receiver Zach Pascal (illness) were full participants. Tight end Jack Doyle and left tackle Eric Fisher received veteran rest days.