‘Doubtful’ designation not a good sign for T.Y. Hilton’s availability

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - SEPTEMBER 22: T.Y. Hilton #13 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates after a touchdown during the second quarter in the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 22, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – T.Y. Hilton stood in front of his cubicle after missing a third straight practice, and would shed zero light on his status for Sunday.

That left it to Chester Rogers, his next-door neighbor in the Indianapolis Colts’ locker room, to clear the air.

“You’re playing, man,’’ he said with a hearty laugh. “Just let ‘em know you’re playing.’’

A few things to understand about Rogers:

  • He’s a fourth-year wideout, not a member of the team’s medical staff.
  • Of the individuals involved in determining Hilton’s availability for Sunday’s meeting with the Oakland Raiders in Lucas Oil Stadium, his advice won’t be sought.

Rogers’ playful optimism aside, the Colts offered more reliable clarity by listing Hilton “doubtful’’ on the Friday injury report. According to the NFL, “doubtful’’ means a player is “unlikely to play.’’

The team also made a roster move that indicated Hilton won’t be available. It elevated rookie wideout Ashton Dulin to the active roster and waived cornerback Ryan Lewis.

Ruled out of the game are linebacker Darius Leonard (concussion), safety Malik Hooker (knee) and defensive end Tyquan Lewis (ankle). Cornerback Pierre Desir (hamstring) and defensive ends Jabaal Sheard (knee) and Al-Quadin Muhammad (neck) are questionable.

Uncertainty has surrounded Hilton since he was held out of the second half of last Sunday’s win over Atlanta. Team trainers were concerned he might tear a quadriceps he aggravated in the second quarter.

The injury forced Hilton to spend the week with those trainers rather than on the field with his teammates, and led to this give-and-take with the media Friday afternoon.

So, how are you doing?

I’m doing better, man. I’m ahead of schedule, so I’m doing better.

Do you expect to play Sunday?

We’ll find out Sunday.

Normally, a player doesn’t play after not practicing all week. But you’ve proven you can play without practicing, right?

We all know that.

So, Sunday?

You gotta wait and see. Find out Sunday. Coach’s decision.

The Friday injury report might have shed some light on that decision. Or not. Technically, a player isn’t out until he’s ruled out. The doubtful designation, though, isn’t an encouraging sign for Hilton.

Any lingering hope of Hilton stepping on the field against the Raiders can be traced to last December. He suffered a serious injury to his right ankle in week 14 at Houston last season. He played at a high level in the following five games despite practicing only once, and then on a limited basis.

Hilton, Frank Reich admitted, is “a rare exception to those things. You can consider those things. With some guys you might not consider that, but with him, that’s always a consideration.’’

Without Hilton, the Colts must lean a receivers’ group that includes Rogers, Zach Pascal, Parris Campbell, Deon Cain and Dulin. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett also has Marlon Mack, the NFL’s third-leading rusher with 299 yards, and tight ends Eric Ebron, Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox.

“Chris (Ballard) and I talk about this a lot,’’ Reich said. “We view every guy on the roster as a guy who can play winning football. When we’re signing guys, we’re asking ourselves that question: Can we envision this player playing winning football for us? If the answer is not ‘Yes,’ then he’s not here. That’s the filter.

“We have a lot of confidence in the guys that will step out there Sunday.’’

Rogers could be headed toward a more significant role on offense. Through three games, he’s had more punt returns (five) than targets (four) in the passing game.

“We’re all here for a reason,’’ Rogers said. “We’re all here because we can make plays at this level.’’

Rogers has contributed just three catches for 24 yards in three games, but is coming off his best season. In 2018, he had 53 catches for 485 yards and two TDs.

“I was in the 60s including the playoffs,’’ he said.

Noted. In the Colts’ two playoff games, Rogers posted nine catches for 76 yards.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51

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