INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The NFL is all about sudden changes and adapting to them.
That’s Frank Reich and the Indianapolis Colts nodding in agreement.
The season began with a shocker – Aug. 25, Andrew Luck, retirement; remember? – that clearly required a sudden and massive adjustment.
The subsequent weeks and months haven’t matched Lucks’ departure in magnitude, but that doesn’t diminish the impact of losing one front-line player after another, week-after-week, game-after-game.
The latest body blow came Monday when Eric Ebron, after consulting with Reich, Chris Ballard and the team’s medical staff, decided ankle surgery couldn’t wait until the end of the season.
On his Twitter account, Ebron insisted “the pain has become unbearable and I can no longer give my team and the fans a worthwhile version of myself.’’
— Eric Ebron (@Ebron85) November 25, 2019
The Colts placed their 2018 Pro Bowl tight end on the season-ending injured reserve list and replaced him with Ross Travis. The team also signed free agent tight end Matt Lengel.
Reich revealed Ebron’s ankle issue “flared up’’ last week and “became a little bit of an issue.’’ He did not participate in walk-throughs Monday and Tuesday – it was a quick turnaround week, which meant no full practices – but was listed as a full participant in the casual workout prior to the Thursday night loss to Houston.
It was the first time this season Ebron appeared on the NFL’s weekly participation report because of an injury. Against the Texans, he was on the field for 29 of 67 offensive snaps and led the Colts with four catches and 44 yards on five targets.
Reich said Ebron underwent a scan on his ankle prior to training camp.
“I’m not saying it was 100% clean,’’ he said, “but it was nothing that was limiting him in practice. It didn’t limit him in training camp, it didn’t limit him in the season or in practice.’’
After team-wide consultation, the decision was made to place Ebron on IR.
“This is what was thought to be the best decision,’’ Reich said.
The decision comes less than three weeks after Ebron approached Reich about becoming more involved in the offense.
“It’s only right that you play your best players and we try to win as many games we can,’’ Ebron said in the days leading up to the Nov. 10 meeting with Miami. “I preach it: ‘Put your boy in the game, good things are gonna happen, you know?’’’
The Colts would drop a crushing 16-12 decision to the Dolphins and Ebron was targeted a season-high 12 times. He finished with five catches for 56 yards but had a potential touchdown in the first quarter taken out of his hands in the end zone.
“Eric’s been a good playmaker for us,’’ Reich said. “Had a big last year and is always a threat. A talented tight end with a lot of speed, so we’ll miss that.’’
Ebron’s second season with the Colts has paled in comparison to his first.
The 2014 first-round draft pick of the Detroit Lions relocated to Indy in March 2018 and made an immediate impact. He earned his only Pro Bowl nod on the strength of 66 receptions, 750 yards and 13 receiving touchdowns. The 13 TDs were a Colts record for a tight end and tied for the third-highest total for a tight end in NFL history.
Ebron’s encore season: 31 receptions, 375 yards and three TDs. His 52 targets are tied with T.Y. Hilton for most on the team.
Ebron will become a free agent after the 2019 season.
The loss of Ebron is the latest to rock the offense.
Hilton returned at Houston after missing three games with a calf injury. Marlon Mack missed the Texans game with a fractured right hand and won’t play Sunday when the Tennessee Titans visit Lucas Oil Stadium.
The list goes on and on: quarterback Jacoby Brissett missed one game with a knee injury; rookie wideout Parris Campbell has missed five games with abdominal surgery and a fractured right hand; veteran wideout Devin Funchess hasn’t played since fracturing his left clavicle in the opener against the Los Angeles Chargers; backup running back Jordan Wilkins missed one game with an ankle issue.
And that’s just the offense.
There could be some positive news looming. The Colts might add Funchess to the active roster this week and Reich didn’t dismiss the possibility of Campbell returning to the lineup.
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