INDIANAPOLIS – They aren’t where they’ll be when things get real Sept. 13 in Jacksonville. They aren’t where they need to be.
But neither are Philip Rivers and T.Y. Hilton complete strangers on the practice field. As Monday’s first padded practice unfolded at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, the Indianapolis Colts’ leading pitch-and-catch tandem displayed a synergy that, while still in its infancy, was hard to miss.
Several times, Hilton found a soft spot in the defense and Rivers found him. There were a couple of occasions when Rivers hit Hilton in stride on a crossing route. Once, Hilton ran an out, Rivers delivered the football and Hilton secured it and toe-tapped before going out of bounds.
It isn’t the type of connection Peyton Manning developed with Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, nor the chemistry Hilton had with Andrew Luck.
But it’s a good start. Rivers and Hilton get in extra work whenever possible, including a couple of throwing sessions Sunday.
“When you’ve got two guys who are instinctive, smart football players, it’s not going to take them long to connect,’’ Frank Reich said Monday on a Zoom conference call. “You could see that already. T.Y.’s body language is so easy to read. He’s so smart and understanding the leverage and the spacing and also understanding the timing.’’
There was a specific play on Sunday that caught Reich’s eye.
“T.Y. got held up a little bit on his release and so he wasn’t able to get the full route,’’ he said. “But he knew exactly the spot to get to at the right time to be on the quarterback’s time. Nice, long completion.
“Examples like that will keep showing up, I’m sure.’’
Hamstring is fine
By the way, it also was obvious Hilton no longer is being hampered by a mild hamstring injury that had him open camp on the non-football injury list.
“I’m not surprised,’’ Reich said. “Part of that was he came in in such good shape. The years I’ve been here he’s come in in phenomenal shape.
“The little hamstring thing he had last week was really minor. It was definitely a thing, but we were definitely going to be cautious with it. T.Y. worked through it. Now we’re just kind of ramping him back up.’’
Kenny Moore II wasn’t able to finish what he started. The nickel cornerback exited practice early with a strained groin. He was stretching early in practice, returned and almost produced a pick-six when he undercut a Philip Rivers pass to Nyheim Hines, but then plopped down on a bench between the fields.
“Not sure to what degree,’’ Reich said of Moore’s groin injury. “These soft tissue issues come in degrees. We’ll have to see how it settles out over the next day or two to determine what it’ll do as far as him missing practice.’’
Also, defensive end Justin Houston and offensive tackle Braden Smith were held out of practice.
Houston is dealing with a strained neck sustained during a minor collision during Sunday’s practice. Smith has been dealing with a foot issue. Neither is considered serious. Offensive lineman Chaz Green has a calf injury.
“Just being precautionary,’’ Reich said of Houston’s injury, adding Smith has “been working through a little issue he’s had with his foot. We don’t think it’s anything major.
“Want to get started on the right foot. We want to be smart. We don’t want a guy set back because of the uniqueness of the timing of (camp) with no preseason games and this long ramp-up period.’’
With Smith out, veteran Le’Raven Clark took snaps with the No. 1 offense at right tackle. Al-Quadin Muhammad filled in for Houston at defensive end.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.