Frank Reich: QB Carson Wentz making progress, likely a game-time decision

Indianapolis Colts

Carson Wentz sits on the bench after twisting his ankle in the fourth quarter of the Colts and Rams game at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 19, 2021 in Indianapolis. (Photo by WXIN/Brett Bensley)

INDIANAPOLIS – Frank Reich has taken a day-by-day approach with Carson Wentz and his sprained ankles.

One day at time. One session with the training staff stacked upon another and another. Intensive treatment, which Wentz joked Wednesday, included “throwing the kitchen sink’’ at it.

No practice Wednesday. Ditto, Thursday.

Friday, which happens to be the most important day for Reich when it comes to determining who’ll be available for the upcoming game, offered encouragement.

Wentz practiced, albeit on a limited basis.

“I think he’s gotten progressively better,’’ Reich said. “He looked OK.

“We’ll see how he responds over the next 48 hours. He’ll likely be a game-time decision.’’

That would be in the hours leading up to Sunday’s critical early-season AFC South showdown with the Tennessee Titans in Nashville. The Colts are hoping to avoid their first 0-3 start since 2011 – they’ve never reached the postseason after an 0-3 start – and reestablish their presence in the division. Indy hasn’t won the AFC South since 2014.

That Wentz was able to practice Friday represented major strides in just a few days. After an MRI confirmed sprains to both ankles – the right one is more of an issue – he was getting around the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center with his right foot in a protective boot and with the aid of a scooter.

“I’m very surprised we’re even at this point, to be honest with you,’’ Reich said. “Monday and Tuesday was pretty bad.

“Monday, I thought zero chance. Tuesday, I thought there was a glimmer of a hope. But we just handle it day-by-day. Today was the next step in trying to figure it out.’’

As the week unfolded, Reich kept an optimistic approach. Wednesday, he allowed himself to consider Wentz as his starter versus the Titans.

“I just know in my mind that, ‘OK, if we’re going to leave this open then we have to think positively. We can always go the other way,’’’ he said. “You don’t want to be pessimistic about it and they say, ‘Oh, all of a sudden you’re feeling better at the end of the week. Maybe you can go.’

“What Carson and I and everybody have talked about it, ‘Let’s just talk as optimistically as we can. We can always back down.’’’

While Wentz concentrated on rehab, Jacob Eason and Brett Hundley became the focal points. Despite Eason’s status as the team’s 2020 fourth-round draft pick, it was reported Hundley, signed off the street in late July after Wentz underwent surgery on his left ankle, took the majority of reps with the starting offense.

Reich wouldn’t commit to his starter against the Titans if it’s not Wentz.

“I’m not going to make those hypotheticals,’’ he said. “We’ll make those decisions when we have to. We have a tentative plan in mind.’’

For Wentz to remain under center, he’ll have to encounter no setbacks in the next two days and Reich must determine whether Wentz will be able to handle his responsibilities without hurting himself or the team.

And there will be risk of aggravating the sprained ankles. That wasn’t the case when Wentz returned to the practice field three weeks after his Aug. 2 surgery. In that instance, re-injury wasn’t a concern.

“This is the kind of injury you can re-aggravate,’’ Reich said. “All of those things have to be considered.’’

Reich will be flexible with his game plan if Wentz is cleared, but added he probably wouldn’t have to pare it down too much after how Wentz handled practice. During the portion of practice open to the media, Wentz moved around and took his normal drops in individual passing sessions. Both ankles were heavily taped.

“Based on what I saw today, probably not,’’ Reich said of simplifying the game plan. “We’ve still got 48 hours. We’ve got to decide should we do that? Is that right for the team?

“If he can’t function and play his game, what’s best for him and what’s best for the team? That’s ultimately what will guide the decision.

“We’ve been very conservative. Carson’s health is first and foremost. We always take a long-term approach. We don’t want to do anything that will harm the player.’’

Wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. has worked closely with Wentz, including participating in throwing sessions during the offseason.

“The dude is one of the toughest guys I’ve ever met,’’ he said. “I know he’s fighting his hardest.’’

Was Pittman encouraged by Wentz practicing Friday?

“Yeah, he looked good today,’’ he said.

Added cornerback Xavier Rhodes: “Carson’s a hard-working guy. We all knew that. Nothing surprises me. He’s a team player and he’s going to do everything he can to help this team.’’

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