WESTFIELD, Ind. – Ryan Kelly is back, with some support.
The Indianapolis Colts’ Pro Bowl center returned to practice this week after missing three weeks with a hyperextended left elbow. He’s wearing a brace on the elbow, at least initially, for protection and support.
“It’s great, man,’’ Kelly said after Tuesday’s workout at Grand Park Sports Campus. “A little bionic, but it’s rolling still.
“A little lubed up. We’re good to go.’’
Kelly went through positional drills Monday, then advanced to team sessions Tuesday. His return has coincided with that of quarterback Carson Wentz and All-Pro left guard Quenton Nelson, both of whom missed three weeks after undergoing foot surgery earlier this month.
Kelly suffered his injury July 29 – the second day of camp – when he “got popped from behind’’ by a running back while in the middle of a scrum of players.
“I’ve got to figure out which one of the running backs took out my elbow because they owe me a new one,’’ he said with a smile. “It was killing me, man, for a while. I was a little nervous. I thought I had done something really bad, but they’re optimistic.’’
At some point Kelly hopes to discard the brace.
“I think we’ll be able to wean off of it in a little bit,’’ he said, adding the injury is “still pretty fresh. Kind of got the handcuffs on a little bit, but at least I can go out there and sweat and get back into football shape.
“It’s amazing how fast you can lose it, but I feel 10 times better today than I did yesterday.’’
The rapid sequence of front-line players suffering significant injuries cast a temporary pall on camp: Kelly and Wentz on the same day, then Nelson Aug. 2.
“Well, it’s kind of a s**t storm,’’ he said. “But here we are. We’re back at it, and we’re rolling.’’
Once he’s fully recovered, the Colts’ offensive line will benefit from his leadership.
“The voice of that group,’’ coordinator Marcus Brady said. “Pre-snap, making all the calls, making sure the communication is right, that helps a lot.
“Then going to get Q back. We’re starting to get it. Yesterday in the walkthroughs, they had those guys in there. It’s going to help Julién Davenport that much more just because they’ve been in the system for so long. They know the calls. They’re going to make sure he’s going to the right guy.’’
Davenport has emerged as the leading left tackle fill-in until Eric Fisher’s rehab from a torn Achilles is complete.
Next Step for Wentz
Wentz’s return from his foot surgery intensified Monday when he went through everything but team drills.
However, Frank Reich wanted to see how Wentz’s left foot would respond to the increased work. Would he be able to practice on consecutive days?
After throwing 44 passes Monday, Wentz was back at it Tuesday. He unofficially completed 19-of-31 passes with four touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. The team is keeping him out of team drills this week to guard against Wentz being accidently jostled by the defense or having someone step on his foot.
“He’s able to take all the reps, which is good for him. We just want him to get caught up with the work,’’ Brady said. “I think he looks good.
“I was talking to him today, and he said he was naturally sore just from training camp. Not the foot, just like body soreness from going back-to-back days. That’s why he has to work out and get himself back into shape to be able to handle that.’’
Getting Back to Full Strength
Running back Nyheim Hines was upbeat after Tuesday’s work. Getting top-end players back to practice tends to have that effect.
“Man, getting back to full strength (and) seeing Ryan, Carson and Quenton (back),’’ he said. “It gives you some optimism.’’
Defensive tackle Grover Stewart agreed.
“Me seeing Carson, seeing Ryan Kelly and Q out there, it just tear me up because I know we’re helping each other get better,’’ he said. “I always tell them, ‘Help me get better, and I’ll help you get better.’
“The energy is through the roof when they’re out there.’’
Getting to 80
The Colts reached the NFL-mandated 80-player roster limit Tuesday by waiving placekicker Eddy Pineiro and waiving/injured tight end Noah Togiai. If Togiai clears waivers, he reverts to the team’s injured reserve list.
Pineiro was unable to unseat incumbent Rodrigo Blankenship despite converting all of his field goal attempts during camp and the first two preseason games. He hit 31-, 50- and 28-yarders against Minnesota and the game-winning 30-yarder against Carolina.
Blankenship matched Pineiro’s perfection. Along with converting everything in practice, he hit a 47-yarder against the Vikings and a 34-yarder against the Panthers.
Pineiro isn’t likely to be unemployed for long. A kicker-needy team probably will claim him off waivers.
Rosters must be cut to 53 Aug. 31.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.