INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The red flags began flapping wildly, only to sag as the Indianapolis Colts strolled out for Wednesday afternoon’s practice.
During his pre-practice press conference with the media, Frank Reich mentioned Anthony Castonzo would be among a handful of players who wouldn’t participate. The long-time starting left tackle has spent the last seven weeks recovering from a hamstring injury.
But later, as players were stretching and preparing for a workout under a searing sun, Castonzo was out there, in uniform. The post-practice participation report listed the 2011 first-round draft pick as being limited.
“Limited’’ beats the daylights out of “did not practice.’’
Chalk one up to a first-time head coach still feeling his way when dealing with the NFL’s regular-season participation report.
And we can’t overstate the importance of Castonzo at least being limited. At least he did something with his teammates.
Castonzo has yet to miss a season opener in his career, and has started 111 of a possible 118 games, including the playoffs. However, his status for Sunday’s opener against the Cincinnati Bengals has been in doubt since he aggravated an injury to his right hamstring he first damaged while working out on his own in July. He was cleared to practice at training camp Aug. 1, but re-injured the hamstring two days later.
Last week, Castonzo insisted it would take a “catastrophe’’ to keep him out of the opening-day lineup.
Perhaps, a catastrophe has been averted.
Castonzo’s ability to practice Wednesday, even on a limited basis, is a positive sign for an offensive line that desperately needs his presence. With him, the starting unit consists of rookie Quenton Nelson at left guard, Ryan Kelly at center, Matt Slauson at right guard and Joe Haeg at right tackle.
Without him? Good luck figuring that one out.
“We were prepared for this,’’ Haeg said. “Obviously he’s been out most of training camp, so we’ve been able to get a lot of guys reps at the left side. We’ll take it one day at a time and keep grinding.’’
Again, Castonzo’s limited participation is a strong step toward him playing against the Bengals. If he suffers a setback or the hamstring proves not to be ready, the Colts might swing Haeg to left tackle and start J’Marcus Webb at right tackle, or leave Haeg at right tackle and go with Le’Raven Clark at left tackle.
Reich stressed the importance of individuals getting as much practice time as possible heading into a game.
Missing time, he added “is definitely a barrier, but not a barrier that cannot be overcome. Especially with a guy like Castonzo, who is as smart as he is and played as long as he has.’’
Last season, Castonzo suffered a knee injury in week 8 at Cincinnati. He missed the entire week of practice heading into the next game at Houston, but worked out prior to the game and was in the starting lineup against the Texans.
“He’s been working hard. It’s not like he has not been physically getting hard work and some field work out there,’’ Reich said. “We are just on a day-to-day basis.’’
More medical matters
Along with Castonzo, rookie linebacker Darius Leonard (ankle/chest), cornerback Nate Hairston (hamstring) and linebacker Anthony Walker (groin) were limited in Wednesday’s practice. Running back Marlon Mack (hamstring) and offensive tackle Denzelle Good (knee) did not practice.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.