WESTFIELD, Ind. – A defense that desperately needs a difference-making presence is getting closer to adding one: Clayton Geathers.
The veteran safety has been taking increased repetitions in full pads with the starting defense as the Indianapolis Colts continue to wade through training camp at Grand Park. Barring a setback, Geathers might be cleared to see his first action of the preseason when the Colts entertain the Baltimore Ravens Monday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“Hopefully, yeah,’’ he said Tuesday morning. “I feel like it is going well.
“So when that day comes, if I’m up, I’m up.’’
The Colts won’t rush Geathers back, but neither will they hold him back. His ability to handle additional work in practice this week is crucial. Geathers endured a heavy workload Tuesday evening, further bolstering optimism his return the playing field will be sooner, not later.
After having Wednesday off, the team has afternoon practices Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The latter two are joint sessions with the Ravens.
“We are hoping that he can be ready,’’ coach Frank Reich said. “There’s just a confidence in it. A lot of that comes from the player. It’s a combination of talking with the trainers and the doctors.
“When a guy is ready and healthy, sometime there’s just that last emotional step of, ‘Hey, I’m ready to go out there and go full speed for 20 plays or whatever it is.’ That’s a team process to get through that, but hopefully, he will be ready to go.’’
The projected backend of coordinator Matt Eberflus’ 4-3 defense has yet to assert itself during camp. Geathers has been in rehab mode after undergoing knee surgery shortly after last season ended. Ditto with free safety Malik Hooker, who’s approximately nine months removed from surgery to repair torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
The team is optimistic Hooker will be ready for the third preseason game, Aug. 25 game with San Francisco.
Any hesitancy Geathers might have is understandable. This is the third consecutive camp he’s found himself dealing with an injury. In 2016, it was a broken foot. In ’17, it was a bulging disc in his neck.
Geathers, a 2015 fourth-round draft pick, has started 12 games in three seasons, but has missed 18 games the last two years. The inactivity and steady rehab have given him a better perspective.
“Absolutely,’’ he said. “Just really attack each day. If you’re going to rehab, rehab 110 percent.’’
Does Geathers feel he’s holding himself back on the field, especially after dealing with the neck surgery? He appeared in five games a year ago, starting one.
“Hold back? No, no,’’ he said. “There ain’t no holding back. If you’re out there, you gotta be out there. If you’re stepping out there and you’re going to be timid, don’t get out there. That’s my mindset.’’
Even so, Geathers conceded anxiety followed onto the field lasts season when he made his first appearance Nov. 26 against Tennessee.
“I was just getting a feel,’’ he said. “To be honest, I was a little scared. I was scared.
“Just everything. Just being back. That’s a serious (neck) injury. I was fine with it. It felt good. It gave me some clarity.’’
Luck busy, sharp
Andrew Luck and the offense were sharp and entertaining for the strong crowd that turned out Tuesday evening.
Luck completed 21-of-27 passes in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 work, including 17-of-21 in team drills. He finished three touchdowns.
Reich had the offense going in hurry-up style during several phases of practice, which is Luck’s strong suit. On one drive of approximately 80 yards, he competed 5-of-5 passes, then handed off to Christine Michael for a 20-yard touchdown through a big hole and the heart of the defense.
Another drive stalled when Luck’s high pass to the right side of the end zone went off the hands of Michael. Adam Vinatieri capped the drive with a chip-shot field goal.
It appears the Colts are sticking with rookie Braden Smith at right tackle and Le’Raven Clark at left tackle until Anthony Castonzo (hamstring) and Denzelle Good return from injuries.
They took the majority of the reps with the first unit again Tuesday. J’Marcus Webb backed up Clark and Austin Howard backed up Smith.