INDIANAPOLIS — T.Y. Hilton admitted Tuesday he feared his season was over when he was injured during a routine practice on Oct. 30.
The Indianapolis Colts wide receiver ran a route early in 11-on-11 drills and felt something catch in his calf. He dropped to the field in pain and immediately feared the worst.
“A freak accident,” Hilton said Tuesday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. “I just was running like I normally do. I just ran the route early, and I ran it and it just got me. I thought my season was over. So it was just a scary moment.”
An MRI the following day showed a less severe strain, and Hilton was given a three-to-four week timetable for recovery.
He’s missed the last three games, with the Colts losing the first two, but Thursday’s crucial AFC South showdown at Houston has to entice him for several reasons.
The winner of the game gets the inside track to a division championship over the season’s final five weeks, and Hilton has a long history of success at NRG Stadium.
In eight career road games against the Texans, Hilton has averaged 5.8 catches for 127.3 yards with seven total touchdowns. Those numbers include five 100-yard games and one 200-yard outing, and Indianapolis is 6-2 during that stretch — including wins in its last three trips.
So when the Colts say Hilton’s return would provide a significant boost to the offense this week, it’s something of an understatement.
“You’ve gotta have (No.) 13 on the field whenever you can,” wide receiver Marcus Johnson said. “Whatever the circumstance is, as long as he’s able to play and help us out in any capacity, we need it. We want him out there, and we’ll feed off of it, for sure.”
Hilton is hedging his bet to a certain degree.
He said there are four boxes that need to be checked off for him to play this week, and two are still remaining. Those two involve medical clearance from the doctors and training staff and a greenlight from head coach Frank Reich and general manager Chris Ballard.
Hilton did not participate in either of the two walk-through practices this week, but he doesn’t see that as a factor in his game-time decision.
“I don’t need practice,” he said. “It’s just how my body feels. If I feel good and all the boxes are checked, then I’ll go. If three out of the four boxes are checked, then I’m not playing. So all four have to be checked for me to play.”
Ballard set his blueprint for drafting linebackers with divisional rivals in mind, and Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson is at the top of the list.
The athletic playmaker is an equal threat with his arm and his legs, and keeping him contained in the pocket as often as possible is a critical component to any successful game plan. Toward that end, Ballard imported rangy linebackers like all-pro Darius Leonard and rookie Bobby Okereke to shadow Watson.
It’s a challenge Leonard, in particular, relishes. But he also gives a lot of credit to a defensive line that has been playing dominant football lately.
“Playing like a quarterback spy and playing with a defensive line whose getting off (the snap) they way they’re getting off, I just love — I love the gameplan of let them be them,” Leonard said. “Don’t have them like robots. You gotta stay right here. You gotta stay right there.
“I love just the fact that we’re allowing them to go do whatever they want to do to get to the quarterback, and then I’m just the clean-up man. And nine times out of 10, they don’t even need me. So it’s definitely fun, just being that extra guy.”
The list of players not participating in Tuesday’s practice nearly was cut in half from a day earlier. But it remains a little too long for comfort, as is customary on the short practice week before a Thursday night game.
Tight end Eric Ebron (ankle), Hilton, running back Marlon Mack (hand), cornerback Shakial Taylor (ankle), safety Khari Willis (concussion) and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (ankle) sat out for a second straight day.
Wide receiver Parris Campbell (hand) and cornerback Pierre Desir (hamstring) remained limited participants, and tight end Mo Alie-Cox (thumb) and running back Jordan Wilkins (ankle) were upgraded to that status.
Left tackle Anthony Castonzo (toe) and safety George Odum (shoulder) returned to full participation.