INDIANAPOLIS – Julian Blackmon continues to check off the necessary boxes.
The latest: going full speed with the starting defense as the Indianapolis Colts went through their first training camp practice Wednesday at Grand Park Sports Campus.
He did so with his usual exuberance.
“Yo, yo, yo,’’ Blackmon said. “It feels good. It’s a blessing, man. I feel like I came back with a lot of gratitude, just be back with my teammates.
“You forget how much something can go fast as it’s given to you.’’
Blackmon’s second season ended when the 2020 3rd-round draft pick tore his left Achilles tendon in an Oct. 20 practice.
After extensive rehab, he participated in organized team activities (OTAs) and the mandatory minicamp in June.
Wednesday, he was full-go for camp.
“Honestly I didn’t want to look too far into the future, but I knew I’d be able to get back as long as I did everything that the trainers (told) me to do,’’ Blackmon said. “I absolutely feel like I’ve definitely gotten back to where I needed to be. That’s why it was good for me to get out in OTAs, be able to feel it and see how well I was able to sustain it for a long time.’’
During Wednesday’s first practice, he checked off another box.
In 7-on-7 work, he offered over-the-top coverage to Kenny Moore II’s underneath coverage and deflected a Matt Ryan pass down the left sideline.
“Just jumping off my left foot again and being able to make a play is like, ‘Hey, I’m back,’’ Blackmon said with a smile. “So you can’t be putting too much air on the ball.’’
Coach Frank Reich smiled when asked about Blackmon’s quick return.
“It’s a real credit to Julian how hard he’s worked to get back, but not a surprise,’’ he said. “He’s really been working diligently at it.
“When he gets the green light to go, we’re going full speed and getting better.’’
Nice first impression
The Colts went against the norm during the April draft. They parted with a 2023 3rd-round pick to acquire Atlanta’s 3rd-rounder. With the 96th overall pick, Chris Ballard added Maryland safety Nick Cross to the defense.
It took Cross two plays to make a nice first impression.
During a 7-on-7 drill, he tipped a Ryan pass on a crossing pattern and came up with a diving interception.
“Great play by Nick . . . sticky coverage and got a tipped ball over the middle,’’ Reich said. “That’s what happens. Great play by Nick and making a good first impression.’’
Cross was running along with Blackmon at safety while veteran Rodney McLeod is eased into practice. McLeod opened camp on the physically unable to perform list (PUP), but was added to the active roster Wednesday.
The defense erupted when Cross came up with the interception.
“Oh, it’s big hype,’’ Blackmon said. “We tell everybody, ‘First person to get an interception, everybody on the sideline, we’re running, we’re scoring.’
“We get excited for those things because that’s how you win games.’’
That excitement seemed to spike with Cross.
“We’re absolutely juiced, especially because he’s 20 years old, coming in making plays already. It’s like, ‘Let’s go, man,’’’ Blackmon said. “We don’t look at ‘Naw, he can’t do that’ We look at him and, ‘You’re gonna make plays.’’’
The offense ran plays at a quick clip, and Ryan appeared to be in total control. During 11-on-11 drills, he completed 7-of-8 passes to five different players. Running back Jonathan Taylor came up with three of the completions.
The opening camp practice was moved indoors because of rain. That limited the attendance to 750 fans.
“A little disappointed we had to come inside, not as many fans,’’ Reich said. “But it was good to see the people coming out today. The players feel that, we feed off the energy.’’
Back at work
Along with McLeod, the team activated defensive end Tyquan Lewis off PUP. Each player went through some positional work but was held out of team drills.
The starting offensive line was as expected: Matt Pryor at left tackle, Quenton Nelson at left guard, Ryan Kelly at center, Danny Pinter at right guard and Braden Smith at right tackle. Rookie Bernhard Raimann worked as the backup left tackle, and veteran Dennis Kelly as the backup right tackle.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.