INDIANAPOLIS — Finally, the Indianapolis Colts had good news to share.
Rookie leading rusher Jonathan Taylor was activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list and returned to practice Wednesday, head coach Frank Reich said. Taylor, who had been placed on the list on Saturday, was deemed a “close contact,” which meant he was in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. That he was cleared so quickly means he met the NFL guideline for testing negative for five consecutive days.
The Colts were without five starters, including three on the COVID list, in a 45-26 home loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. Taylor, who has 518 yards rushing and four TDs as well as 27 receptions for 227 yards, will provide a much-needed boost to an offense that managed just 56 yards rushing on 21 carries against the Titans.
The Colts (7-4), who are visiting the AFC South Division rival Houston Texans (4-7) on Sunday, hold the seventh and final playoff spot.
Reich didn’t provide updates on the other sidelined players — defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (COVID), defensive end/tackle Denico Autry (COVID), outside linebacker Bobby Okereke (ankle), Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly (neck).
He mentioned that 38-year-old quarterback Philip Rivers will rest a sore toe for the second consecutive Wednesday. But Rivers, just like last week, assured he will play on Sunday.
“Yeah, definitely a week better, definitely a week better than last Wednesday at this time,” Rivers said. “I certainly feel good about that. As I told you all last week, and I honestly told you all last week I had no concerns of being able to go, I certainly don’t have any concerns this week.
“I think it’s just a matter of continuing to just monitor a little bit of the soreness, more than anything. After the game, pretty sore, but you don’t want to just continue to keep yourself sore all week long, if you can help it a little bit. I just thought it was the best approach this week.”
A greater concern is how the 17th-year passer will be protected, presuming offensive left tackle Anthony Castonzo is unable to play after exiting in the second quarter with an MCL knee sprain.
Reich said he spoke with Castonzo on Wednesday and there’s no established timetable for the 10th-year pro’s return. He was replaced on Sunday by fifth-year pro Le’Raven Clark, who struggled. Rivers was clearly rattled in the pocket as the offense sputtered after Castonzo’s departure.
“This guy is a finely tuned athlete, he knows his body,” Reich said of Castonzo. “So we’ll trust him and the doctors and the trainers, and just kind of give him the freedom to test this thing out as he sees fit, how he feels.
“We just decided not to lock ourselves into any formula other than, ‘Hey, you just keep pushing it every day. There’s no reason to say, hey, this is going to be one week, two weeks, three weeks, four weeks. There’s just no reason to say that. So let’s not put ourselves in a box. Let’s just keep working at it as you can and try to get a little bit better every day.”