Colts still awaiting word on RB Jonathan Taylor’s status against Broncos


Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Buffalo Bills Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (Adrian Kraus/AP)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor intends to use Thursday night’s pregame warmups as a test to see if he can play against Denver despite an ankle injury.

The news was worse for three-time All Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard. In addition to the concussion keeping him out this week, Leonard may miss even more time with a fractured nose.

It’s just another frustrating week for the struggling Colts.

“I’m going to use as much time as I can in order to get treatment and get feeling as well as possible before trying to make any decisions, and I think that’s critical on a short week,” Taylor said Tuesday. “So just trying to push as much treatment as I can.”

Last year’s NFL rushing champ doesn’t miss much time.

Until the Colts (1-2-1) held him out of offseason workouts this spring, Taylor couldn’t remember the last time he missed a practice. Then last week, an injured toe limited his participation in practice.

But while at Wisconsin, he played in 41 straight games and logged more than 900 carries and 6,100 yards. And four weeks into his third season with the Colts, Taylor has missed only one game, when he deemed a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

Otherwise, Taylor has been Mr. Reliable, and he hopes it stays that way.

“I definitely do plan to play,” Taylor said. “But if you can’t go, you can’t go.”

Losing Taylor would be another blow for the league’s lowest-scoring offense (14.3 points), especially as it prepares to face one of the NFL’s stingiest defenses.

The backup plan likely would mean giving Nyheim Hines more touches while elevating Colorado native and former Broncos Pro Bowler Phillip Lindsay to the active roster.

Lindsay has said he would welcome facing his old team not far from where he has a home.

Fortunately for Indy, though, it doesn’t appear playing will exacerbate Taylor’s injury.

“I don’t think we’re in that category,” coach Frank Reich said. “From the discussions I’ve had with the doctors and trainers, that’s not a concern at this point. He’s not ready to go right now, but we’ll see if he’s ready to go Thursday night.”

The bigger long-term concern might be Leonard.

After the fallout from Tua Tagovailoa’s head injury last Thursday, Reich wasted no time announcing Monday that neither Leonard nor versatile defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis would play against the Broncos (2-2). Both are in the concussion protocol.

On Tuesday, Reich confirmed Leonard also fractured his nose.

“Yeah, pretty bad,” Reich said, describing the injury. “We need to do some further testing on that. We have to wait for the swelling to go down to see if that’s going to come into play.”

Leonard’s 540 tackles and 17 forced fumbles rank among the best in the league since his rookie season in 2018.

But he struggled with ankle pain most of those first four seasons, then finally had back surgery in June to alleviate the pain. The procedure forced him to miss all of training camp, the entire preseason and Indy’s first three regular-season games before making his season debut Sunday.

It didn’t last long. He was injured on a nasty collision with teammate Zaire Franklin late in the first half. Leonard stayed on the ground for several minutes before going straight into the locker room with assistance from the trainers.

“I love this guy. He’s the heart and soul of who we are,” Reich said. “I feel so bad for him. He worked so hard to get back, it means so much to him. The team’s success means so much to him. I know he’s frustrated, hopefully he can get back there fast.”

The same could be said about Taylor.

“We have a plan for that,” Reich said, “but we still hope he can play.”

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