WESTFIELD – The angst in Bubba Ventrone’s voice was palpable.
The question involved how the Indianapolis Colts would replace Rigoberto Sanchez, their venerable veteran punter who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury Tuesday.
Ventrone, who wore a gray Sanchez T-shirt during Wednesday’s practice, paused to gather his thoughts.
“First I have to say I’m extremely upset for him,’’ he said. “He put in so much hard work this entire offseason and since I’ve been here.
“I feel like I lost . . . I feel like it’s my son that got hurt. I just appreciate him so much, his wife Cynthia and their baby, Bali. I really feel for him.’’
Ventrone has been the Colts’ special teams coordinator since 2018, Sanchez’s second season as Pat McAfee’s successor. He’s watched Sanchez develop into one of the NFL’s premier punters. He’s a weapon with his tactical punting and kickoffs and has been flawless as the holder on placement kicks.
“We’re going to do our best to not replace (him), but to get something we can . . . guy’s going to have to step up,’’ Ventrone said.
The Colts worked out a slew of free agent punters Wednesday morning and are close to signing Matt Haack, who was released by Buffalo last week.
While the impact of losing a top-tier player at his position is undeniable, the impact on Ventrone was clear. Sanchez will be missed on several levels.
“It’s going to be extremely hard,’’ he said. “You’re not going to replace a guy like that. He does so much for our team, not only on the field but off the field.
“He’s a great person, a great leader. Just upset for him and his family.’’
Sanchez tore his right Achilles while running sprints at the end of Tuesday’s practice.
Initially, Ventrone wasn’t certain Sanchez was the fallen Colt.
“I was a little confused honestly,’’ he said. “I didn’t see who it was, but I thought it was the heat or something like that. A lot of things go through your head at that point.’’
The punter and his position coach have talked several times since the injury occurred.
“I talked to him after practice, and obviously you guys can understand he was in a bad spot,’’ Ventrone said. “I called him last night when I got home, and he sounded a little bit better. I saw him today, and he looked a lot better. I think it kind of like has hit him.
“It’s unfortunate. I feel extremely upset for him. He put in so much hard work for this season.’’
As Ventrone’s meeting with the media was winding down, it was mentioned Sanchez replaced a Colts’ icon: McAfee. He retired after 2016.
“Is Pat McAfee available?” Ventrone asked. “I saw him last week. It looks like he’s in decent shape.’’
Kwity Paye injured
After a very uneventful training camp, injuries have flared up.
The latest: an injury to the left knee of Kwity Paye. An MRI will determine the severity of the injury, but the team isn’t anticipating a significant injury.
Paye went down during team drills and remained on the field as trainers tended to him. He eventually got to his feet and limped to the sideline.
Instead of being taken to the locker room, Paye again had trainers look at his knee on the sideline. He then had a wrap placed on his left calf and watched the remainder of practice.
Paye’s injury came a day after Sanchez tore his Achilles. Last week, rookie tight end Drew Ogletree suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Ryan Kelly out; line shuffle
Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly has been sidelined for the next five days – the new NFL rule – after testing positive for COVID-19. He was placed on the COVID-19 list twice last season, once as a close contact and the other as a positive test.
Kelly’s absence required a shuffling of the offensive line.
In Wednesday’s initial team drills, projected starting right guard Danny Pinter moved to center with Will Fries stepping in at right guard.
Later, position coach Kevin Strausser briefly mixed things up. As was the case the previous day, left tackle Matt Pryor moved to right tackle, right tackle Braden Smith moved to right guard and rookie Bernhard Raimann stepped in at left tackle.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.