WESTFIELD – It’s been a routine question for more than a few Indianapolis Colts as they ramped up preparation for Saturday’s preseason opener at Buffalo.
Do you want or need to play in the preseason?
Quenton Nelson took umbrage Thursday afternoon, which means he didn’t appreciate the question.
Reporter: Are you looking forward to playing on Saturday?
Nelson: What type of question is that?
You’re not supposed to answer a question with a question, but we weren’t going to mention that to the four-time All-Pro guard.
Reporter: Do you want to play a quarter, more?
Nelson: I want to play.
Nelson’s response, which was accompanied by a stern glare, was in step with so many of his teammates: Football players play.
Coach Frank Reich and general manager Chris Ballard will discuss who plays, who doesn’t and how much exposure is necessary for those who play in the next two days. They must weigh the positives gleaned from getting work in intensified game conditions with the risk of injury, especially to a prominent front-line player.
Reich plans on playing quarterback Matt Ryan about a quarter against the Bills – Buffalo QB Josh Allen won’t play – which means the Colts’ retooled offensive line can anticipate a similar workload. Everything is subject to change. Ryan’s reps might hinge more on how efficient the offense is on its first couple of series rather than leaving him out there for the entire opening quarter.
Get in good work, then get out.
Which players might not play? Good question, and one Reich wouldn’t answer.
“For the most part,’’ he said, “I want the guys to think everybody is playing. Then Chris and I will meet with the coaches and scouts and we’ll work through it.’’
It won’t be a surprise if a handful of players are held out, perhaps of the entire preseason. Reich already has mentioned he won’t play his starters in the Aug. 20 meeting with Detroit at Lucas Oil Stadium because of the two joint workouts with the Lions next Wednesday and Thursday.
Running back Jonathan Taylor didn’t step on the field during the 2021 preseason, and it would be a shock if that’s not the case once again. Others who might see limited preseason exposure – or none at all – include wideout Michael Pittman Jr., defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Kenny Moore II.
Thursday, Reich indicated wideout Parris Campbell and safety Julian Blackmon will get some work. Campbell has looked strong in camp and is trying to put an injury-plagued past behind him. Blackmon missed the final 11 games last season after tearing his left Achilles.
“It’s as much for them as it is for us, just the confidence level,’’ Reich said.
Defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis likely won’t play against the Bills. He’s seeing extensive work at camp, but still is working his way back after tearing his right patellar Oct. 31 against Tennessee.
While the final decision of who plays rests with Reich and Ballard, here’s a sampling of player opinion. We’ve already offered Quenton Nelson’s:
*Ryan: “I’ve always liked getting out there and getting some reps and doing those kind of things, but that’s not my call. That’s up to Frank and Chris, and they’ve got to determine what’s best for the team.’’
*Taylor: “It’s fun. It’s another game. But we didn’t play in college, so this is just a new element that’s added into the NFL.’’
Does Taylor believe he needs to absorb a game-level hit before the Sept. 11 opener at Houston?
“No matter what, football’s football,’’ he said. “You’re going to get hit. You already know that in your head.’’
*Blackmon: “Absolutely. As long as the coaches are allowing me to get out there, I think it would be very good for me to just get out there and feel the ground again and get real speed time. So it will be really important for me to get out there and play on Saturday. I’m excited.’’
*Ngakoue: “I love to get my pads nice and hot. Nice and warm, and absolutely just being able to get that true, true game speed. Practice is great, but at the end of the day, the game tempo will be super, super different.’’
The latest phase of the kicking competition between Rodrigo Blankenship and Jake Verity comes at Buffalo. Reich plans on having one handle the kicking in the first half and the other in the second half.
Thus far, the competition is a statistical dead heat. Each has converted 13-of-15 field-goal attempts. Blankenship nailed 28-, 33-, 40-, 47- and 56-yard attempts Thursday while Verity was wide right on the 56-yarder.
Tight end update
It’s hard not to notice Drew Ogletree moving past fellow rookie Jelani Woods during camp in the tight end rotation. Ogletree, a 6th-round pick, is getting ample work with the starting offense.
Also, Kylen Granson continues to assert himself.
During one drill Thursday, Granson ran a crossing pattern and was tightly covered. But he made a nice one-handed catch on a pass from Nick Foles. He also adjusted to a back-shoulder pass from Ryan and came up with the reception.
Nelson declined to offer an update when the topic of a possible extension was broached Thursday.
“Respectfully I’m not answering any questions about my contract,’’ he said.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.