Tagged in: Colts

Tom Brady expected to play Saturday in Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ preseason finale

Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is expected to play in Saturday’s third and final preseason match match the Indianapolis Colts.

Coach Todd Bowles did not say it outright, but when asked Thursday if Brady will play, he responded, “Everyone who is healthy will play.”

Brady, who returned this week from an 11-day absence to tend to “personal issues,” is healthy and practiced in full Thursday, as well as Monday and Tuesday, with a veteran day on Wednesday. He took his usual number of reps and looked strong and focused.

It will mark the first time Brady has played this preseason, the first time he’s lined up with wide receiver Julio Jones in a game and the first time he’ll stand behind a remade interior offensive line featuring second-year center Robert Hainsey and rookie left guard Luke Goedeke in live action.

“It’s important for game continuity,” Bowles said of seeing Brady with the starters. “We have some new guys on the O-line. We have some new guys at receiver. So other than having practiced together, we need to see ’em in a game with certain situations and just the flow of it. No matter how long it is, we just need to see it.”

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Bowles stated he’s not concerned about Brady’s level of conditioning after such a prolonged absence, nor is he concerned that Brady didn’t have enough time to build up chemistry with Jones, wide receiver Russell Gage or tight end Kyle Rudolph.

“He missed 11 days, but he wasn’t playing in the first two [games],” Bowles said. “He’s fine with everything. We know his condition and it’s fine. He’s getting back with the guys. He’s throwing the ball and we’re good. I think it was built up before we left.

“It’s just having everybody intact, practicing at the same time. You know, his days would’ve fallen the same day Julio was off and obviously Mike [Evans] being injured — we didn’t have a full slate there either, but they got to see a lot of things from the side and got to talk a lot. And I think the chemistry’s good.”

The starting left guard position remains unclear, but Bowles said Goedeke, who is competing with Nick Leverett for the job, will get the start.

Goedeke struggled last week versus the Tennessee Titans with two holding calls, and he surrendered a sack.

The fifth, sixth and possibly seventh — if the Bucs choose to keep seven — wide receiver positions after Evans, Jones, Chris Godwin and Russell Gage are also up for grabs, with Tyler Johnson, Jaelon Darden, Scotty Miller, Breshad Perriman, Deven Thompkins and Jerreth Sterns all competing for those remaining spots.

As for Brady, whose mid-training-camp break was unprecedented in the NFL for any uninjured player, let alone a seven-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, Bowles said he wouldn’t have given him the time off if it wasn’t absolutely necessary.

“If it wasn’t a situation, that we hadn’t talked about it, and it wasn’t important, I wouldn’t have done it,” Bowles said.

“I have that kind of relationship as well do the coaches with a lot of the players and they all have private things that they come to us with. It just came to light more than the others. And we won’t sway away from that. We don’t give nobody breaks just to take breaks.”

When healthy, Brady has participated in at least one preseason game every year since he was drafted in 2000. The only preseason he did not take part in was in 2008 when he was a member of the New England Patriots and was dealing with foot and ankle injuries.

Godwin, who has been practicing with the team for three weeks and started 11-on-11 work for the first time since suffering a torn ACL in Week 15, is not expected to play, although the coaching staff has been encouraged by his progress.

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QB Tom Brady to return to Tampa Bay Buccaneers early this week

Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is anticipated to return to the team this week, coach Todd Bowles announced Sunday. Bowles did not provide a specific date, but said, “It’ll be this week, early.”

Brady has been away from the team since Aug. 11 to tend to what has been described as “personal things.” Bowles stated it was something agreed upon weeks ago and that the team supported Brady, who has kept in touch with the coaching staff during his absence.

Bowles said a decision has not yet been made on whether Brady will see action in this week’s third and final preseason game at the Indianapolis Colts.

“Not yet. We’ll see how practice goes and we’ll make those decisions at the end of the week,” Bowles said. In the past, teams have used the third preseason game as a dress rehearsal for the starters, although the preseason as a whole has seen a diminishing level of importance in recent years, primarily because coaches see the risk for injuries being too great and they want to give backups as much playing time as possible.

The Buccaneers’ focus this preseason has been to give second-year quarterback Kyle Trask as many reps as possible.

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Several starters and high-profile Bucs players have not participated in the preseason yet this year because of injury, the need to assess depth, or to not incur unnecessary risk.

Those players include wide receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Julio Jones, Russell Gage, right tackle Tristan Wirfs, left tackle Donovan Smith, right guard Shaq Mason, outside linebacker Shaq Barrett, inside linebackers Lavonte David and Devin White, cornerback Carlton Davis III and safety Antoine Winfield Jr.

In addition to his current absence, Brady has missed four days of camp in late July and early August. He has been given off days in the past, but this is the first time in 23 years he has taken a significant amount of time away from the team during training camp or the preseason.

He did miss OTAs while he was with the New England Patriots in 2018 to spend more time with his family, but those practices are optional and take place in the spring, long before the regular season starts.

All of Brady’s absences with the Bucs in 2022 have been approved by the team, although it is highly unusual for NFL teams to grant that sort of flexibility. Brady finds himself in a challenging situation.

Not only is Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen out for a significant period due to a knee injury, but the Bucs lost left guard Aaron Stinnie, who was competing for a starting role, to a torn ACL/MCL Saturday night. Evans is also still nursing a hamstring injury and Godwin is still recovering from an ACL injury, although he is making progress and is now participating in some 7-on-7 work.

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Indianapolis Colts signing CB Stephon Gilmore to two-year deal

The Indianapolis Colts are giving cornerback Stephon Gilmore a two-year, $23 million contract that contains $14 million guaranteed, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Gilmore becomes the second veteran addition to the Colts’ secondary this week, after Indianapolis signed safety Rodney McLeod on Thursday.

Cornerback was a position of need for the Colts after they traded starter Rock Ya-Sin to the Las Vegas Raiders for pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue and did not re-sign starter Xavier Rhodes.

The Colts have reshaped their defense after the departure of coordinator Matt Eberflus, who is now the head coach in Chicago, and hired Gus Bradley as his replacement. Indianapolis’ defense now features the five-time Pro Bowler Gilmore, Ngakoue and DeForest Buckner on the line, linebacker Darius Leonard, and one of the league’s best slot corners in Kenny Moore. All five of those players have been selected to at least one Pro Bowl in their careers.

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“He kept saying we would spar, he knows the score and knows what was going on but we ended up sparring [Yuriorkis] Gamboa and he had to get pulled out of the spar. Bearing in mind I wasn’t even in training camp but he had to get pulled out because he was beginning to get a bit of a pasting.

Gilmore played the 2021 season with the Carolina Panthers, who traded a 2023 third-round pick to the New England Patriots in October to get him.

The Panthers added the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year in hopes that he could replace first-round pick Jaycee Horn, who experienced a season-ending foot injury in Week 3 at the Houston Texans.

Gilmore, 31, was on the physically unable to perform list when he arrived in Carolina, still recovering from offseason surgery on a torn quad and not eligible to return until Week 6.

He was activated in Week 8 and played the final eight matches, starting three. He had an interception in his Carolina debut at Atlanta to preserve a 19-13 triumph then followed that with another in his home debut versus New England. After the season, he was added to the Pro Bowl as an alternate.

He said after the trade that he did not appreciate the way New England handled his quad injury, suffered in Week 15 of the 2020 season.

Gilmore, who grew up in Rock Hill, South Carolina, had told ESPN before a late-season game at Buffalo that he would like to return to Carolina. The Panthers liked the veteran leadership brought to a young Carolina secondary.

Complicating the issue was 2018 second-round pick Donte Jackson, 26, who re-signed with the Panthers on a three-year deal last month. The 10th overall pick in the 2012 draft by the Bills, Gilmore has 27 interceptions and 116 passes defended in 10 seasons.

“Ugas was there and after he was inviting me out for dinner with him and his missus. I thought: ‘That’s a bit odd,’ I look at that and think ‘I fancy my chances.’ If he does beat Spence, which I believe is not likely, but it is a fight I’d love in the future.

“I didn’t take him up on dinner. I told him I was busy but as I was walking through the casino, I see him and his missus having food and I went over to say hello and thought ‘That couldn’t have gone anymore awkward really.’

“It’s not that we are from the same country or live the same lifestyle so I was thinking ‘Why does he want me to go to dinner?’ What are we going to do? Sit there and stare at each other. I found it very odd. I don’t know what his motive was.

“I would love to do it for real. I want to test myself against the best in the division. Every challenge they put in front of me I come through it. I’m top five in every governing body and No. 1 in Britain.”

Benn is closing in on a world title shot which he hopes to get later this year or in 2023, as long as he defeats California-based Van Heerden (28-2-1, 12 KOs), a southpaw from South Africa.

Benn added: “I’ve done a lot of southpaw sparring and I love challenges, I love overcoming them. I think I have shown in my last few performances that I can beat any style put in front of me. I think I fill him in, to be honest. I’m prepared for a hard fight.”

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DeMarcus Lawrence agrees to 3-year deal with Dallas Cowboys

DeMarcus Lawrence has agreed to a new three-year deal worth $30 million guaranteed, sources told ESPN, with the new contract providing the Dallas Cowboys salary-cap relief this year.

Lawrence’s future with the team had been in question with a $27 million salary-cap figure and the Cowboys needing to find room just to get under the cap, but the sides were able to work out a deal that keeps him in Dallas through at least 2024.

Lawrence’s $27 million cap figure would have been the fifth-highest hit of any defensive player in 2022.

While the exact figures are not yet known, the Cowboys will have more space to keep their own free agents, like safeties Jayron Kearse and Malik Hooker, as well as defensive end Randy Gregory, who has received early interest from multiple teams, counting the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts, according to sources.

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In 2019, Lawrence signed a five-year, $101 million deal that included $65 million in guaranteed money.

After adding a voidable year on to the deal in 2020, the Cowboys tore up the final three years of the original deal in exchange for the new contract.

Lawrence is the heart and soul of the Cowboys’ defense. Since posting 14.5 and 10.5 sacks in 2017 and ’18 that saw him land the franchise tag twice, he has not had more than 6.5 sacks in a season.

He was limited to seven games in 2021 after undergoing foot surgery following the season opener. He concluded with three sacks, five pass deflections, an interception, two tackles for loss and two forced fumbles with the coaches crediting him with 18 tackles.

Over the last five seasons, Lawrence has the fifth-best pass-rush win rate (24.9%), fifth-best pressure percentage (11.7%) and 206 pressures, which are seventh-best in the league.

The Cowboys hope to have Lawrence back with Micah Parsons, who had 13 sacks as a rookie, and Gregory, who matched his career-high with six sacks, in 2022 in Dan Quinn’s second year as their defensive coordinator.

Without the cap space gained from Lawrence, keeping Gregory might have been more difficult or forced the Cowboys to make more roster moves.

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Indianapolis Colts still to decide Carson Wentz’s future with the team

The Colts are still working through the process that will decide quarterback Carson Wentz’s fate with the franchise, general manager Chris Ballard stated Tuesday.

“I don’t have a direct answer for you,” Ballard said at the NFL’s scouting combine. “Jim [Irsay], Frank [Reich] and I will sit down over the next 10 days and figure out where it’s going. Ultimately, we’ll do what’s best for the team in the short term and in the long term.”

The Colts are in the position of possibly looking for their third different starting quarterback in as many offseasons. They gave up a third-round pick in the 2021 draft and a first-round pick in the 2022 draft to acquire Wentz from the Philadelphia Eagles in February 2021.

Wentz threw for 3,563 yards with 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season. What he rarely did, however, was take over games, especially in the final two weeks of the regular season, when the Colts needed just one victory to make the playoffs.

He didn’t throw for more than 185 yards in either of those games, completing 58.9% of his pass attempts and throwing a total of two touchdowns. Wentz’s in-game decisions frustrated members of the organization at different times during the season, and Ballard said after the season that he wasn’t ready to fully commit to Wentz for 2022.

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“Ultimately, you have to have a guy you believe in and you can win with,” Ballard said. Ballard was then asked why they didn’t believe in Wentz.

“I’m not saying we don’t,” Ballard said. “I think as we sit down and work through whether Carson is the best long-term answer or not is the best way I can put it. We’re not there yet, I’m not there. That’s something we’ll talk about as a group and move forward. Whatever decision we make will be the best one for us.”

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported on Super Bowl Sunday that the chances of Wentz returning to Indianapolis for a second season looked “bleak.”

Wentz will get $15 million whether he’s on the Colts’ roster or not next season, but the team can save about $13 million if it releases him by March 18. His contract runs through 2024, though there is a potential out after 2022.

The quarterback position has been a nightmare for Ballard since he was hired by the Colts in the winter of 2017.

After missing the 2017 season, Andrew Luck led the Colts to the playoffs in 2018, only to suddenly retire two weeks before the start of the 2019 season. 

Jacoby Brissett failed to secure the position long-term that season. Veteran Philip Rivers served as a bandage for the Colts in 2020, and the team expected that Wentz would stop the revolving door at the position.

But here the Colts are again, unclear as to whom the Week 1 starting quarterback will be.

“I think about all the time,” Ballard said. “Also with a measured approach, knowing you have to be right. Even if you might not be right all the time, that’s the one position you have to keep firing away at until you get it right.”

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Chicago Bears to hire Indianapolis Colts DC Matt Eberflus as head coach

The Chicago Bears will hire Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus as their head coach.

Eberflus, 51, also was considered a candidate for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ head-coaching vacancy. He will join new general manager Ryan Poles in taking over a Bears team that went 6-11 in 2021 under Matt Nagy and has missed the playoffs in nine of the past 11 seasons.

Chicago also interviewed Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and former Colts and Lions head coach Jim Caldwell for the job.

Eberflus has spent the past four seasons as the Colts’ defensive coordinator under coach Frank Reich. His defenses finished in the top 10 in scoring three times, including being tied for ninth in 2021 at 21.5 points per match.

Eberflus will inherit a Bears team that ranked sixth in the NFL in total defense in 2021 but struggled offensively and endured instability at quarterback, where Andy Dalton alternated as the starter with rookie Justin Fields.

The first big question for Eberflus in Chicago will be selecting an offensive coordinator, since a big part of the job for the new coach and GM will be solidifying the quarterback position that has haunted the founding NFL franchise for decades.

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The Bears do not have a first-round draft pick in 2022 because they traded that selection to the New York Giants to select Fields, who showed flashes of potential as a passer and as a runner but concluded with just seven touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. Chicago went 2-8 in the 10 games Fields started this past season.

The Bears made two postseason appearances in their four years under Nagy but last won a playoff game in 2010. They are 1-3 in the postseason since appearing in Super Bowl XLI after the 2006 season, a game the Colts won.

Eberflus, a former linebacker at the University of Toledo who began his coaching career at his alma mater and hometown school, also interviewed for head-coaching jobs last year after his third season with Indianapolis, where he developed a reputation for demanding relentless effort out of his players.

Eberflus’ high standards included counting “loafs” — a term former Bears coach Lovie Smith also used in his Tampa 2 defense. Eberflus refined his style and terminology during a seven-year stint in Dallas, where he worked with Rod Marinelli, who, like Smith, came from the coaching tree of Hall of Famer Tony Dungy.

Now Eberflus will be the second coordinator to leave Indianapolis in two seasons.

Last year, the Philadelphia Eagles filled their head-coaching vacancy with Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, who took a handful of Colts assistants with him.

It’s unclear how many, if any, assistants will follow Eberflus from Indy or Philly to Chicago.

When Eberflus started his coaching career at Toledo in 1992, he spent nine years with the Rockets as a student assistant, grad assistant, outside linebackers and defensive backs coach.

He spent the next eight seasons as Missouri’s defensive coordinator (2001-08) before making the jump to the NFL, where he coached linebackers in Cleveland (2009-10) and Dallas (2011-17) before joining the Colts ahead of the 2018 season.

In Eberflus’ first season in Indianapolis, the Colts improved from 30th to 10th in scoring defense, from 30th to 11th in total defense and from 26th to eighth in rush defense.

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Indianapolis Colts put unvaccinated starting QB Carson Wentz on reserve/COVID-19 list

The Colts have placed starting quarterback Carson Wentz on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the team revealed Tuesday.

The NFL and the NFL Players Association on Tuesday adopted the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that would reduce the quarantine time to five days from 10 days for all players, counting those who are unvaccinated, if they are asymptomatic or at least demonstrating that their symptoms are improving, according to a memo obtained by ESPN.

Wentz tested positive, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Wentz would still be able to play on Sunday versus the Las Vegas Raiders as long as the positive test took place Monday and he is asymptomatic or demonstrates his symptoms are improving under the new protocols. Wentz has not shed light on why he remains unvaccinated.

He missed some time before the start of the regular season because he was a close contact to someone who tested positive in the Colts’ organization.

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“I’m not going to go into depth on why, but I will say it’s a personal decision for me and my family,” Wentz said in early September.

“I respect everybody else’s decision, and I just ask that everybody does the same for me. I know that’s not the world we live in, not everyone is going to equally view things the same, but yeah, no one really knows what’s going on in someone else’s household and how things are being handled. It’s a personal decision. That’s just where I’m at on it and with the protocols and everything the way they are, really for us, it’s about understanding them clearly and making sure that we are dotting our I’s and crossing our T’s.”

If Wentz can’t play, rookie Sam Ehlinger, barring the Colts bringing in a quarterback from the outside or going with practice squad quarterback Brett Hundley, will start versus the Raiders.

Ehlinger missed the start of the regular season because of a knee injury suffered in a preseason game at Detroit. His most extensive playing time has been in the final minutes of games that have already been decided.

The Colts, like many other teams around the NFL, have been hit hard with players going on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Wentz is the 15th player currently on the list for the Colts. Linebacker Darius Leonard, guards Quenton Nelson and Mark Glowinski, right tackle Braden Smith, safety Khari Willis and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin are other starters currently out because of COVID-19. Leonard, Nelson and Smith were all unvaccinated as of earlier this season.

The Colts (9-6), winners of eight of their past 10 matches, are currently the fifth seed in the AFC playoff race. Only one game separates the fifth and 11th seed in the AFC. The Colts can lock up a playoff spot with a victory over the Raiders on Sunday.

“The playoff race is close, and I feel like the teams that can handle the COVID-19 situation are going to be the ones that are gonna be able … to get into the playoffs,” Colts defensive lineman DeForest Buckner said after Saturday’s victory over Arizona. “Key players all around the league are out. It’s all about depth.”

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Indianapolis Colts’ Julian Blackmon out for season after tearing Achilles

The injuries just won’t stop for the Colts in 2021, as second-year free safety Julian Blackmon suffered a season-ending torn Achilles in practice Wednesday, the team revealed.

This is Blackmon’s second significant injury in less than two years. He tore an ACL during the Pac-12 championship game while at Utah in 2019. Blackmon, who was selected in the third round of the 2020 draft, recovered quickly enough to play in 15 games and intercept two passes as a rookie.

Blackmon’s season ends with 34 tackles, one forced fumble and one pass defended.

“It’s how we respond that matters!” Blackmon tweeted. “Let’s get this W this week!!” Expect the Colts to add a safety to the active roster, because Khari Willis, George Odum and Andrew Sendejo are the only players at the position presently on the roster.

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Blackmon’s injury adds to what has been a season-long list of injuries for the Colts (2-4). Quarterback Carson Wentz, guard Quenton Nelson, linebacker Darius Leonard, kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, wide receiver Parris Campbell and right tackle Braden Smith are some of the key players who have been out or are currently out for multiple weeks due to substantial injuries.

Blackmon had 34 total tackles and forced one fumble in the Colts’ first six games of the season.

The second-year safety was just eight tackles away from matching the mark he set during his rookie season.

Blackmon, despite tearing his ACL during the Pac-12 championship game, was selected by the Colts in the third round of the 2020 draft and made 14 starts as a rookie. He finished that campaign with 42 tackles and two interceptions.

The Colts (2-4) have placed 19 players on injured reserve since the beginning of training camp in late July, with Blackmon set to be the 20th. Indianapolis plays at San Francisco on Sunday night.

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Jacksonville Jaguars end 20-game losing streak with last-second field goal

The Jacksonville Jaguars’ 20-game losing streak has ended.

A 23-20 victory over the Miami Dolphins at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on Sunday snapped the Jaguars’ skid, which was the second longest in NFL history.

It was the first time the team has won in 399 days, dating back to beating the Indianapolis Colts in the 2020 season opener.

The Jaguars won on Matthew Wright’s 53-yard field goal as time expired, which was set up by a bit of a sneaky play on fourth-and-8. The Jaguars gave a look like they were going to throw a Hail Mary, but quarterback Trevor Lawrence completed a quick 9-yard pass to Laviska Shenault and a quick timeout set up Wright’s third field goal of the game.

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The Jaguars hadn’t made a field goal in the first five weeks of the season, but Wright made all three of his attempts Sunday.

The Jaguars have made all 15 field goal attempts they have tried in their eight matches in London.

Lawrence threw for 319 yards and one touchdown, Marvin Jones caught seven passes for 100 yards and one touchdown, and defensive end Josh Allen made a critical stop on a fourth-and-1 run that set up the Jaguars with the ball on the Miami 46-yard line for their final possession.

Lawrence is the first rookie quarterback to win a game in London; rookie QBs were 0-5 in London entering Sunday. His 319 passing yards are also the most by a rookie quarterback in London, beating the previous mark of 309 by former Jaguar Gardner Minshew in 2019.

The Jaguars won the 2020 season opener but lost their next 15 to close out the season — which ensured they would have the top pick in the draft, which they used on Lawrence — and then started this season 0-5.

That stretch of 20 consecutive losses was the second-longest losing streak in NFL history behind only the 26-game streak by the 1976-77 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers, however, were an expansion team in 1976.

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Indianapolis Colts QB Carson Wentz has sprains to both his ankles, Frank Reich says

Colts quarterback Carson Wentz’s status for the key Week 3 AFC South game at Tennessee is up in the air because of two sprained ankles suffered versus the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, coach Frank Reich stated Monday.

Wentz’s most severe sprain occurred on his right ankle when he tried to scramble and was taken to the ground by Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald with less than eight minutes left in the game.

Wentz didn’t return after limping to the sideline and then throwing his helmet in frustration. Wentz sprained his left ankle earlier in the game, according to Reich.

The coach stated he still had to meet with the team medical staff to get a better indication about Wentz’s ankles.

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“I know Carson has a high threshold for pain,” Reich said. “When you have guy who is a pocket passer, it affects his game less than a guy who is a mobile quarterback. That’s not rocket science. My history with Carson is that he’s a pretty fast healer and he’s tough. If there’s any chance he can play with these ankle sprains, he’ll play. It’s an incredibly big game.”

Wentz is 45-of-69 for 498 yards with three touchdowns and an interception through the first two matches of the season.

The most alarming stat with Wentz is that he has been sacked six times and hit an additional 21 times in those two games. He has played a full season only twice since entering the NFL as the No. 2 overall pick in 2016.

Second-year quarterback Jacob Eason will start against the Titans if Wentz is inactive. Eason threw an interception on his second pass attempt after entering the game in Sunday’s 27-24 loss.

Eason found himself in a quarterback battle with rookie Sam Ehlinger to potentially be the starter when Wentz was out for three weeks while recovering from left foot surgery during training camp. The Colts have not started a season 0-3 since 2011.

“If Jacob has to play, Jacob will be ready,” Reich said. “The situation he got thrown into [late in Sunday’s game] was as tough as it gets. I can tell you that from experience. He’ll be ready if he has to be.”

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